The Sri Lankan Defense Ministry says it wants to identify sources who provided information to the UK-based broadcaster Channel 4 for a new documentary alleging that government forces committed war crimes during the country's long civil conflict, The Divaina, a Sinhala-language daily, reported today. In response, the producer issued a statement saying that no "resident anywhere in Sri Lanka helped us with this film."
The Channel 4 documentary, "No War Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka," was released last week in Geneva to coincide with a U.N. Human Rights Council discussion on Sri Lanka. The film depicts the Sri Lankan army's involvement in a summary execution and torture. Callum Macrae, producer of the new documentary, also said in the statement that "no one was paid for any evidence or interviews."
The Defense Ministry has a long history of threatening, intimidating, and harassing those who challenge government actions, CPJ research shows. An English translation of The Divaina piece referred to anyone assisting Channel 4 as having "turned their back to the motherland."
"We deplore the Defense Ministry's attempt to stifle free speech," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "Sri Lankans have a right to examine the country's human rights record without fear of being denounced as unpatriotic."
Channel 4 also exposed evidence of Sri Lankan war-time atrocities in a 2011 report. The government has denied any allegations of war crimes and has claimed that material used by Channel 4 was not authentic, local reports said.
Sri Lanka remains a highly restrictive and dangerous nation for the press. In July 2012, the Ministry of Media and Information blocked efforts to introduce freedom of information legislation before parliament, saying national security would be threatened if citizens were given access to public documents.