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Doubts as Sri Lanka says Commonwealth meeting open

As Sri Lanka prepares to host the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November, some journalists have wondered whether they will be able to access the summit given the island nation's abysmal press freedom record.

On Saturday, a subcommittee of the government taskforce organizing the summit issued a press release stating that "Sri Lanka is committed to providing full media access" and that it "welcomes all journalists to cover this very important summit."

In a recent letter to the Commonwealth Secretariat, CPJ expressed concern about the accreditation procedures amid press reports that the Sri Lankan government will conduct stringent background checks on foreign journalists covering the meeting, with the apparent intention of denying permission to enter the country.

Richard Uku, spokesman for the Secretariat, responded to CPJ's executive director via Twitter, stating that the Secretariat is the final authority on media accreditation procedures for international journalists.

But the signals are still mixed. Since then, local media have raised the issue of whether journalists like Callum Macrae, producer of the bold Channel 4 documentary, "No War Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka," will be allowed into the country. Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella responded by saying the government will have final say over who is allowed in, underscoring the lingering concerns. Some journalists predict that Sri Lanka will find ways to deny visas to journalists who have been critical of the country, even if they are granted accreditation from the Secretariat.

This week, Bandula Jayasekara, Sri Lanka's consul-general in Sydney, vowed to block Macrae's entry, according to press reports­--after referring to him in a Twitter tirade as a "mercenary with blood money" and "the Chief Propagandist of the LTTE terrorists overseas," referring to the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam:

Sri Lanka has a long track record of obstructing the independent press. In the past year, Colombo has introduced a draft media code in parliament that would impose harsh restrictions on journalists' ability to report freely (it has been withdrawn for now, under criticism) and interrupted transmissions of BBC's Tamil service while the ethnic Tamil press continues to face attacks.

Sri Lanka's intentions will soon be tested. Registration for accreditation is now open for international and local journalists.

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Comments

Any impartial person, strong enough to resist Tiger incentives or false stories, can visit Sri Lanka to see for himself or herself that democracy and press freedom are alive and well in Sri Lanka, unlike in the USA which has become almost a Police state by being paranoid over free speech and as such the Western media is afraid to report anything exposing US violations both within the country as overseas.
It is obvious to anyone why the BBC reporter Callum Macrae is touring the world with fabricated movies carrying the message of the Tiger rump. He and persons of his ilk have no shame,fear or feelings when harming the future of innocent civilians of Sri Lanka, tortured by the Tigers, with his false propaganda. Though he is a Westerner, up to now I am not aware of him exposing any of the human rights violation by USA and Western nations, within those countries or in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afganistan, Pakistan etc nor heinous crimes committed by the Tigers. Such people are a discredit to respectable journalists with self esteem.

Sumit

You are really concerned about the press freedom of Sri Lanka but you never concerned about professional ethics code of the journalist, these two journalist Callum Macrae and Frances Harrison are paid agents of the one of the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world

Do you believe under the press freedom that all innocent SL people to suffer, must be joking

Whare were you last 30 years when this terrorist organisation ruining day to day life of SL people , did your journalist report to the world truth about this terrorist organisation under media freedom.

This chap Bandula Jayasekera is a number one joker when he was media advisor to the president, He stooped to such levels to get a posting in Australia . He is an absolute clot when it comes to diplomacy

Sri Lanka certainly welcome un-bias free journalists without any hidden agendas - press freedom does not mean that you can say or write whatever you think is write - because what you think write may not be the correct story - so it is better to be factual - presenting all the possible facts and let the reader decide - without sensationalizing certain facts - Macrae is not a journalist - but a paid opportunistic idiot who do not mind white washing the criminal history of LTTE and their blood thirsty supporters - as long as he get his booty - so he should not enter SL as a journalist -

Terrorists and their supporters should'nt be allowed to come to SL.Their intention is to destroy SL. Be aware the government.

Callum Macrae and Frances Harrison have been merely holding the mirror! If the images are horrific the problem lies not with them but with the objects they have portrayed before the world!! Surely it is no secret that SL governments have been blood letting under cover of the ignominious PTA over the last 40 years for abject political failures of governments to solve the problems of its own citizens!!! Cover-ups will not efface nor erase the problems but only help aggravate them as has been happening over the past 65 years of failed independence. It is time to come to real grips and solve the hidden problems at least for the future's sake. The UN's involvement is crucial.