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Sri Lanka: Alistair Burt says GoSL has refused to invite UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression

Photo of Kerry McCarthy

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the BBC World Service‘s decision to suspend broadcasts in Sri Lanka; and what discussions he has had with the government of Sri Lanka about interference with that service.

Photo of Alistair Burt

Alistair Burt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Afghanistan/South Asia, counter terrorism/proliferation, North America, Middle East and North Africa), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North East Bedfordshire, Conservative)

The British Government is aware of the BBC’s decision to suspend broadcasts on the Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). According to the BBC statement made on 26 March, this decision followed
‘continued interruption and interference of BBC Tamil programming on SLBC’.

We are concerned at reports of interference with programming, and consider the provision of impartial news to be very important as do many people who listened to the service.

We continue to have serious concerns about human rights in Sri Lanka, including in regards to freedom of opinion and expression, and in light of recent attacks on a number of journalists. During Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic

Review in November 2012, we recommended that Sri Lanka should ensure that
‘all citizens are able to freely express their opinions and beliefs without fear of reprisal or retribution, and to invite the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression to visit’.

The recommendation was rejected by the Sri Lankan Government.

Officials at our high commission in Colombo regularly make representations to the Sri Lankan Government about our human rights concerns in Sri Lanka, including on freedom of expression. The UK co-sponsored the Sri Lanka resolution passed in the Human Rights Council on 21 March, and we welcome its adoption with the support of a majority of Council members. We look to the Sri Lankan Government to implement the recommendations contained in the resolution and comply with their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, which include the protection of the safety of journalists.

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 18 April 2013, c504W)


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