BBC halts radio services to Sri Lanka’s state-run broadcaster

February 10th, 2009 - 1:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Feb 10 (DPA) The BBC World Service Tuesday stopped providing radio news to Sri Lanka’s state broadcaster because of what it calls “deliberate interference” by government censors.

A statement from the BBC said that its FM broadcasts to the Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corp (SLBC) had been suspended with effect from Tuesday.

The move came after many of its news reports in the Sinhala, Tamil and English languages, mainly related to the fighting between government troops and Tamil rebels, had been blocked or only partially broadcast over the past few weeks.

The BBC broadcasts two half-hour programmes in Sinhala and Tamil daily. They are popular among listeners. To ensure a bigger audience, they are broadcast via FM channels of SLBC.

The BBC said SLBC chairman Hudson Samarasinghe admitted censoring BBC programmes, saying he “had a duty to do so at a time of war”.

The BBC said it will maintain its services in Sinhala, Tamil and English on short wave radio and online. BBC news reports in English are to continue on the Sri Lankan commercial radio broadcaster, MBC.

The BBC move follows allegations that press freedoms are being eroded in Sri Lanka as fighting intensifies between troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Military operations are on in the last strongholds of the rebels in the Mullaitivu district where some 150,000 civilians are believed to be remaining.

More than 6,500 civilians entered military controlled areas from the rebel areas Monday, marking the largest number of arrivals in a single day.

Meanwhile the death toll in Monday’s suicide bomb attack at a camp for displaced people has risen to 30 with the deaths of two more wounded civilians. The explosion killed 20 soldiers and 10 civilians.

A woman posing as a civilian entered the government-controlled area and exploded herself at a welfare centre where a large number of civilians were present. Some 40 civilians and 24 soldiers were injured in the blast.

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