Sri Lanka deports three foreign journalists

Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered Britain’s Channel 4 News Asia correspondent Nick Paton-Walsh, cameraman Matt Jasper, and producer Bessie Du, to leave the country on May 10, 2009, according to Channel 4 and international news reports. 

Channel 4 broadcast a report by the team on May 5 showing footage filmed secretly in a camp in the city of Vavuniya, northern Sri Lanka, detaining civilians displaced by the Sri Lankan government’s civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam which ended following a series of government victories in May. The footage had been taken inside the camps without an army escort, in defiance of government orders, and included allegations of guards leaving corpses to rot, food and water shortages, and sexual abuse, according to a statement by ITN News, which produces Channel 4.

Security officials detained the three journalists in the eastern port town of Trincomalee and escorted them to the airport in the capital, Colombo, where they took a plane to Singapore, according to the reports.

Nick Paton-Walsh described the order in a blog post on the Channel 4 news Web site: “I’d spoken amicably to [Gotabaya Rajapaksa] 45 minutes earlier about getting some better access to Sri Lanka’s 25-year war. But this time he was calling me, and seemed to have remembered something.

Who is this? You rang me earlier? Is this Channel 4? You have been accusing my soldiers of raping civilians? Your visa is cancelled, you will be deported. You can report what you like about this country, but from your own country, not from here.”