The United Kingdom has urged Sri Lanka to give unhindered access to foreign journalists during the upcoming CHOGM to be held in the island nation.
The British Under Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Office Alistair Burt has told BBC Sandeshaya programme that international journalists accredited by the Commonwealth Secretariat should be given full access during the summit of over 50 heads of state of a summit.
His comments came as British journalists, Callum Macrae and Frances Harrison in particular, have raised concerns over Sri Lanka’s Consul General in Sydney Bandula Jayasekara threatening to exclude from the summit to be held in November in Sri Lanka.
Mr Macrae’s documentary films about the war crimes committed by Sri Lanka security forces during the last stages of the war has made him an enemy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa government.
In a bitter exchange in Twitter, Macrae was told by Jayasekara that he will not be issued a visa to visit Sri Lanka.
As Jayasekara is the former official spokesman for President Rajapaksa, his threats come, no doubt, with the blessing of the head of state.
Describing the film maker as a “terrorist from London,” Bandula Jayasekara has also accused him of profiting from “blood money.”
In a statement, Macrae says that the Rajapaksa administration fears that international journalists will investigate the current situation in Sri Lanka while covering the summit.
“Of course they don’t want to be subjected to any kind of scrutiny at all,” it said.
But Alistair Burt says visa handling during CHOGM is not Sri Lanka’s responsibility.
The British government is aware, he said, “of reports that some journalists have had indications that they will not be issued visa to travel to Sri Lanka.” He did not, however, expressed concern over such reports.
“Our understanding is that the issue of visa is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Secretariat because they handle the CHOGM,” Minister Burt told BBC Sinhala.
The BBC pointed out, however, it is the host country that issues visas to accredited journalist.
“The United Kingdom has made it clear that we expect all accredited have the opportunity to go to CHOGM and to travel freely in Sri Lanka when they are there,” the minister responded.
The British government also expects that British journalists allowed to do their work “without any intimidation” during the CHOGM, he said, and the safety and security of all British citizens abroad are of paramount important to his government.