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Media banned from covering local elections in two northern cities

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the Sri Lanka government's decision on 3 August 2009 not to allow journalists into the northern cities of Vavuniya and Jaffna to cover the first local elections to be held since the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this year. All outsiders are being denied entry for "security" reasons.

"It is unacceptable that the government should impose such a ban on nothing more than the vaguest security grounds," Reporters Without Borders said. "As well as violating the population's fundamental rights by preventing them from circulating freely, this measure dashes any hope of a transparent election."

The press freedom organisation added: "The government continues to violate press freedom while journalists are attacked with complete impunity, and both local and foreign newspapers are often censored. Death threats are made against local newspapers such as "Uthayan" and journalists continue to be killed and to disappear, but few investigations are launched and hardly any are successful. Sri Lankan journalists cannot go on working in such intolerable circumstances."

Vavuniya and Jaffna, the cities where local elections are to be held on 8 August, have a Tamil majority and are near the areas formerly held by the Tamil rebels. Currently, no one is allowed into the cities without permission from the defence ministry.

Lakshman Hulugalle, the head of the government's security information centre, said journalists would not be able to visit the two cities and would have to rely on the information provided by the government.

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