A British news team that had been detained by Sri Lankan authorities — after producing a report about the alleged abuse of Tamils — has left the country.
The Channel 4 news team, which was detained on Saturday, is heading back to its base in Bangkok, ITN senior news management said Sunday. ITN produces Channel 4’s news programs. The team’s news report, aired Tuesday on Channel 4, chronicled the abuse of Tamils in internment camps in the city of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka, where fighting has raged between the government and rebels. The report alleged that “dead bodies were left where they fell, shortages of food and water, and sexual abuse,” ITN said. The government denied the claims and arrested Channel 4 Asia Correspondent Nick Paton-Walsh, a cameraman and a producer. The Sri Lankan government’s news Web site reported that P.B. Abeykoon, the controller general of immigration and emigration, said officials had discovered that Paton-Walsh had consistently filed fabricated stories and had tarnished the country’s image. Watch reaction to allegations of abuse by the military » The Web report said Paton-Walsh’s visa had been canceled. Channel 4 said the team — which had been in the country with valid visas and had been reporting there independently for a couple of weeks — had been told to leave.
Sri Lanka denies claims civilians hit by shelling
Sri Lanka: Troops close in on rebels
Rebels: Sri Lanka still bombing civilians
Sri Lanka rejects Tamil Tigers cease-fire
“ITN stands by its original report and the conduct of its journalists,” the network said Sunday. Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting for an independent state in Sri Lanka’s northeast since 1983.
As many as 70,000 people have been killed since the civil war began, and the group has been declared a terrorist organization by the European Union and more than 30 countries, including the United States. Tamil Tiger rebels have been pinned down by Sri Lankan government troops in a small section of the country’s north, and civilians trapped in the crossfire have been trying to flee.