BBC halts service in Sri Lanka after broadcasts disrupted

New York, March 26, 2013–The BBC announced today that it has suspended all radio broadcasts in Sri Lanka following what it called “continued interruption and interference” by a national broadcaster in the country.

The Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), the national broadcaster in the island nation, interrupted transmissions by the BBC’s Tamil service between March 16 and 18 as the BBC was covering the U.N. Human Rights Council’s discussions of Sri Lanka’s human rights record, according to news reports. The SLBC, which typically carries the BBC Tamil programs via a partnership, replaced the programming with the government’s perspective of the issue and other, unrelated programs. A similar interruption to BBC broadcasts was reported on March 25, reports said.

The BBC said that its programs could still be accessed on shortwave and online.

News reports cited BBC World Service Director Peter Horrocks as saying that the interference amounted to a breach of trust. Sri Lankan authorities have not responded to the allegations, news reports said.

“This is not just a breach of trust with audiences in Sri Lanka, it is a form of censorship,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Sri Lankans have long suffered from official efforts to keep them in the dark about news in their own country. This latest move is an attempt to deprive them of one of the last remaining sources of independent information.”

The BBC suspended its FM programming in Sri Lanka in similar circumstances in February 2009 during a major assault by the country’s military on Tamil Tiger rebels, reports said. And over the past year, the Sri Lankan government has aggressively censored outlets and blocked information, CPJ research shows.

  • For more data on Sri Lanka, visit CPJ’s Attacks on the Press.