Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the UK yesterday poured scorn on Channel 4′s controversial documentaries about the final stages of the war. “Their documentaries are like the Star Wars movies. They are highly emotive, but they are not examples of responsible journalism,” he said.
He said that the documentaries, the most recent of which was Callum Macrae’s “No Fire Zone” which caused international controversy when it was aired a few weeks ago, were “peripheral” and used unauthenticated and uncorroborated footage, adding that, “not a second of the footage has been filmed by a Channel 4 journalist.”
He also had harsh words for the TV channel itself, saying “Channel 4 is an extremely marginal TV company. Many people do not even do not even bother to look at Channel 4.”
Nonis’s words are not entirely in keeping with the profile of the documentaries both in Sri Lanka, but particularly abroad. However, as he looks to build on the splash made by his appearance on CNN, the High Commissioner clearly saw an opportunity to drive home Sri Lankan antipathy towards outside interference.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 News Editor Ben de Pear explained why his team in Sri Lanka were forced to withdraw from covering the summit early because conditions had become impossible. He said that, “despite having been invited to Sri Lanka, granted visas and even accredited for the event, after a difficult week it became impossible for Channel 4 News to operate as journalists in the country. ”
He cited the protest in Anuradhapura that forced the journalists to turn back to Colombo instead of visiting the north, the constant monitoring by security forces (including their phones and laptops), intimidation by various groups, and the way in which Sri Lankans had been “lied to” by their government. He said, “None of the protestors we engaged with had seen our coverage, or Callum Macrae’s films, but they have been subjected to a relentless campaign on behalf of the Sri Lankan government for years to discredit our journalism.”
He finishes his article with the following lines:
“Sri Lankan journalist colleagues told us of their jealousy of our freedom to tell the stories they know are true.
Police and security personnel laughed with us at the absurdity of our treatment and the orders they must follow.
Sri Lankans are no fools; the war is over. Now give them peace.”