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Sri Lanka: Media Barred from Covering Elections

(Aug. 5, 2009) On August 3, 2009, Sri Lanka's government announced it would not permit reporters to cover the local elections in two cities. The elections are being held in the northern cities of Vayuniya and Jaffna, just outside the area formerly held by the Tamil Tiger rebels, and are the first to be held in the region since the rebels were defeated in May 2009. The Sri Lankan authorities cited security concerns in denying entry to the region to any non-residents. The two cities are surrounded by checkpoints; permission must be obtained from the Defense Ministry to enter them, and residents need permission if they wish to leave. (Sri Lanka Bars Media from Covering Local Elections, AP, Aug. 3, 2009, available at

Although the ruling party leaders have taken some journalists into the area to report on campaign events, reporters will have to rely on government handouts to cover the elections themselves. (Id.)

On the same day that the ban was announced, a protest was held in another Sri Lankan city on a press freedom issue. A group of journalists participated in a silent demonstration at the Gangodawila Magistrate Court against what they termed attacks carried out on media freedom. Two journalists were appearing in the court at the time on charges that they were involved in the kidnapping of a union leader. The charges were based on the fact that the reporters informed the police of the kidnapping during the incident. The August 3 protesters were asking that the government release the journalists and find and arrest the actual kidnappers. (Media Protest Staged in Sri Lanka, COLOMBO PAGE, Aug. 3, 2009, available at