17 Nov 2013

Channel 4 News returns to Sri Lanka

All the latest from the Channel 4 News team – allowed back into Sri Lanka for the first time in four years to cover the Commonwealth summit.

A team from Channel 4 News has returned to Sri Lanka, having not been allowed in for four years, in order to cover the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm).

Channel 4 News has, since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, reported on and revealed convincing evidence of war crimes allegedly carried out by the Sri Lankan regime and military. We have been allowed into the country because the British prime minister and foreign secretary insisted that a full complement of British media attend Chogm.

The return of Channel 4 News, as well as Callum Macrae, award-winning director of films on Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights violations such as No Fire Zone and Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, is being closely monitored by the Sri Lankan media.

On arrival in Sri Lanka, international journalists are being handed a 222-page book entitled Corrupted Journalism: Channel 4 and Sri Lanka – an out-and-out attack on the journalism of Channel 4 News.


On this page, Channel 4 News will record the events and challenges for the Channel 4 News team inside Sri Lanka.

Sunday 17 November

As Chogm comes to an end, Channel 4 News Editor Ben de Pear reveals why he is pulling his team of the country in the face of intimidation: http://bit.ly/HTnMsl.

Channel 4 News Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller writes an open letter to journalists in Sri Lanka as he returns from Chogm http://bit.ly/HY3pdU

Saturday 16 November

David Cameron threatens to push for an independent international inquiry into allegations of war crimes at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war http://bit.ly/17ABUmt.

At a press conference, Jonathan Miller asks Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa if his government will launch an investigation into allegations of war crimes:


Sri Lanka icon Muttyah Muralitharan tells Jon Snow that Cameron has been ‘misled’.

Friday 15 November

Channel 4 News may have been prevented from heading to the north of Sri Lanka earlier in the week, but Jon Snow has now made it. He is accompanying Prime Minister David Cameron to Jaffna.



In Jaffna, Mr Cameron was met by hundreds of people calling for help in locating their missing loved ones, who disappeared at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war. Meanwhile, in Colombo, President Rajapksa was due to hold a press conference. The first challenged Channel 4 news faced was not being included on a list of 200 journalists to attend the press conference.

At the press conference Jonathan Miller asked why President Rajapaksa had not attended the conference, and were told it was a matter of “logistics”, and was told that the president was happy to answer difficult questions. Channel 4 News also asked if the government could intervene to prevent the news crew being followed everywhere and prevented from accessing parts of the country. Channel 4 News Editor Ben de Pear said he would prevent films of the people who have followed Channel 4 news to the government, and was told it would be looked into.

Thursday 14 November

Jon Snow has arrived in Sri Lanka. The rest of the Channel 4 News team has returned to the hotel in Colombo. Sri Lankan press also reported that a taxi driver who had driven the Channel 4 news team back from Anuradhapura to Colombo had made a complaint to police that he had not been paid. Channel 4 News Editor Ben de Pear responded on Twitter:


The team was spending the day with elderly relatives of Sri Lanka’s “disappeared”, ahead of a film to be shown on Channel 4 News on Thursday evening called “White Van Stories”.


Wednesday 13 November

The Channel 4 News journalists head north on the train, but encounter some problems:






 The protest was also posted on Youtube. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who had insisted the full complement of British media be allowed into Sri Lanka for CHOGM, thereby enabling Channel 4 News to enter, gets involved:

Channel 4 News was driven back towards Colombo by a police escort.





Tuesday 12 November

Channel 4 News making the news – here’s what’s on the front page in the country on Tuesday. SL_front_page 1pm (local time): At a business event, Channel 4 News Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Millerdoorsteps” President Mahinda Rajapaksa:


  2:30pm: At a press conference, the team finds themselves the topic of conversation.



  And later at the hotel, Channel 4 News Editor Ben de Pear discovers why the Channel 4 News team seems to have a constant tail.


Monday 11 November

2pm (local time): The team from Channel 4 News arrived in Sri Lanka at the Bandaranaike International Airport at around 2pm on Monday 11 November, the start of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting week.



This is how the arrival and protest, said to have been organised by the “Movement to Promote National Harmony”, was featured in Sri Lankan local media on Monday. Channel 4 News left the airport via a van and headed to the hotel. They were followed: