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Photojournalists from non-State media prevented from covering budget speech

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is an FMM press release:

Photojournalists barred from covering budget speech

7 November 2007, Colombo, Sri Lanka - We express our deep concern and condemn the banning of photojournalists from covering the important budget speech in Parliament today. Although all media institutions were invited to cover the event, it is regrettable that only photojournalists from State-controlled media were allowed to cover the event.

Protesting this arbitrary censorship, all photojournalists boycotted the traditional tea party which follows the presentation of the budget.

We note that this is the first time non-State photojournalists were not allowed to cover the budget speech. Our organizations consider this an act of clear censorship, a telling disregard for plural opinion in the media, a blow to independent journalism and an act that grossly discriminates against non-State media.

Further, we see this as part of larger effort to control media in Sri Lanka by overt censorship based on the whim and fancy of those in power. This, we note, is in effect the totalitarian control of media that stifles independent journalism and the freedom of expression.

We demand from the government that all non-State media be allowed to cover all events that State media are privy to, without fear of censorship or discrimination. Further, we demand that an inquiry be held to ascertain who was responsible for the censorship enacted in Parliament today, and that remedial steps be taken immediately to restore media freedom in Sri Lanka.

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