Newspaper refuses to change inflammatory captionPosted Oct 25 2008
In a letter dated Sept. 25, a spokesman for Sri Lanka’s military headquarters requested that the Colombo-based, Tamil-language Sudaroli newspaper change a potentially inflammatory photo caption, FFM reports.
The photograph, which originally appeared on the BBC Sinhala Web site, depicts five school children in the Vanni districts covering their ears and looking fearfully up at the sky during what appears to be a bomb raid. Frequent clashes in the area between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan military have displaced thousands of residents.
Sudaroli reprinted the photo with the caption, “Oh my God, don’t drop bombs on us.”
In the letter, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakakara relayed the military’s concern that the caption unfairly implies air force attacks have endangered civilians and that it will “create tension among the people and confuse the Security Forces who are serving to safeguard the sovereignty of the country.”
The request comes in the wake of increasingly strict controls on freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, FFM reports. “We regard it as wholly unacceptable that the military spokesperson should feel entitled to request a newspaper to change or withdraw any expression of opinion, photo captions included,” FFM wrote in a press release about the incident. “This is clearly a violation of press freedom.”
Sudaroli has thus far declined to change the caption.