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BBC goes silent in Sri Lanka

London/Colombo, Apr 6 (): BBC went silent in Sri Lanka after it suspended its World Service FM broadcasts due to “continued interruption and interference” in its Tamil programming.

However, the state-owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) chairman Hudson Samarasinghe told AFP that they have not jammed the programme or edited it. He added that BBC has stopped giving its feeds without giving any reasons for it.

The BBC said its Tamil service was jammed on 16, 17 and 18 March, which it claims as a violation of their broadcasting agreement. Both English and Tamil services broadcast via SLBC will be stopped with immediate effect, BBC said, after its FM relay programmes between March 16 and 18 were jammed. After one more interference by the Sri Lankan government on March 25,BBC suspended its service.

Peter Horrocks, BBC World Service director said they had spoken to SLBC last week about breach of agreement.When Sri Lanka paid no heed to it, BBC was left with no other option other than to suspend it, added Horrocks. He further said that if SLBC has any complaints about BBC feeds, they should take up the issue directly with them and  direct interference  in their broadcasts is unacceptable which could also possibly mislead their audience.

Britain’s top-notch broadcasting agency now faces the ire of Sri Lanka after  pro-opposition Uthayan, a Tamil newspaper office was vandalized on April 3. A murder attempt was reported on investigative journalist, Faraz Shaukatally attached to the privately-owned Sunday Leader on February 15.

The BBC said that their loyal audience in Sri Lanka could still access their feeds on shortwave and through the corporation’s online services.

The Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said two days ago there is no threat to media freedom in Sri Lanka as portrayed by certain groups.

In February 2009,when civil war was ravaging the island nation, BBC had suspended its programme feeds to Sri Lanka in circumstances akin to the current scenario.

In the press freedom index put together by the Paris-based non-profit group, ‘Reporters without Borders’, Sri Lanka ranks 162 out of 179 countries for 2013. The international NGO states that Sri Lanka is among the world’s democratically elected governments that has the least respect for  press freedom.

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