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Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 17:28 UK

Sri Lanka attacks war reporting

By Alan Johnston
BBC News

Journalists protest in Colombo
Sri Lankan journalists have long complained of government harassment

The Sri Lankan Defence Ministry has launched a bitter attack on what it says is irresponsible media analysis of the war with Tamil Tiger rebels.

In a statement on its website, the ministry vowed to take action to stop what it called this "journalistic treachery".

The statement has been strongly condemned by media freedom activists.

The Defence Ministry's message to the media stresses that Sri Lanka is at war to liberate the country from terrorism.

'Traitors'

The statement says that those who undermine public support for that mission by making false allegations give aid to the terrorists.

According to the ministry, only military officers are qualified to analyse military matters and it attacks "doomsayers and reporters who write inane comments".

It says that "traitors" in the press will be exposed.

The Paris-based watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, has described the statement as "very threatening", and part of a policy of intimidation.

It says that it opens the way to further restrictions and pressure on defence correspondents in particular, in what is already a dire climate for media freedom.

One leading commentator on military matters was recently abducted and beaten in unexplained circumstances. Another has recently ceased writing his weekly column.

All this comes against a background of almost daily, fierce clashes between the army and the Tamil Tigers.

The military has pledged to defeat the rebels by the end of the year.

It is under pressure, and clearly extremely sensitive to any criticism of the way that the war is being conducted.




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Country profile: Sri Lanka
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