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 Sri Lanka press limits criticised

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PostSubject: Sri Lanka press limits criticised   Sat Aug 08, 2009 3:09 pm


Sri Lanka press limits criticised



By Swaminathan Natarajan
BBC Tamil service



Critics say that it will impossible to report fairly on the vote


Press restrictions imposed by the Sri Lankan government ahead of elections in the northern towns of Jaffna and Vavuniya have been strongly criticised.
Media groups and opposition parties say the measures will affect both the reporting of the voting and the counting process.
The elections to local bodies in the towns are due to be held on Saturday.
It will be the first test of popular opinion in the predominantly Tamil areas since the end of the war.
The Sri Lankan army defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May.
'Outraged'
A little over 100,000 registered voters will choose civic representatives to the Jaffna municipal corporation - the first such vote for nearly a decade.

It will be the first popular vote in Jaffna for about a decade

The last municipal chiefs were killed by Tamil Tiger rebels in the late 1990s.
The latest elections are being conducted under a heavy security blanket and reports say even local media representatives face restrictions in covering the polling process.
In Vavuniya, reporters were told they would not be permitted into the polling stations and the counting centres.
In Jaffna, they are reportedly to be allowed in the polling stations, but not into the counting centres.
The Paris-based media rights group, Reporters Without Borders, says that it is outraged by the government decision.
"We have not imposed a blanket ban. We have received many requests from journalists to go to Jaffna. We are processing these applications. Depending on the security situation we will take a decision," said Laxman Hulugalle, director of the Media Centre for National Security.
The lack of free access to journalists has also drawn criticism from the opposition Tamil parties in Sri Lanka who have expressed concern about "the absence of independent media".
They have told the BBC Tamil service that the few local newspapers in Jaffna have been "silenced".
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