BBC's unbalanced reporting on Sri Lanka

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Sri Lanka's Peace Chief writes to
Head, BBC Sinhala Service

Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP)
16th June 2008

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process has expressed his disappointment over the BBC coverage of the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka. In a letter to Mr. Priyath Liyanage, Head of the BBC Sinhala Service, Prof. Wijesinha highlighted the lack of balanced reporting on the part of Mr. Liyanage, particularly with regard to the alleged rape case in Akkaraipattu. Given below is the full text of Prof. Wijesinha's letter to Mr. Priyath Liyanage.

* * *

Priyath Liyanage
Head, BBC Sinhala Service

Dear Priyath,

I was disappointed with the English transcript of your coverage of the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka. Whilst it was certainly more balanced than some other accounts, it gave much greater weight to critical input, and took no account of responses with regard to action being taken with regard to particular criticisms.

I am also not sure why, having interviewed me at length, you left out all reference to the points I made with regard to the most sensational allegation during the session, which was also given a sub-heading. I refer to Ms Nimalka Fernando's claims regarding a rape in Akkaraipattu, as to which I pointed out that, when the report was first published, I asked the Deputy Director/Operations (Police) of the Peace Secretariat for a report.

He mentioned that the matter had not been reported to the police, but I then suggested that he follow up on all the leads mentioned in the newspaper. After thorough investigation, including of all hospitals in the area, it was reported that such an incident had not been reported to any of them, and that there was no record of this incident.

It is of course conceivable that the investigation had not been thorough, but even you did not think of that explanation, and suggested that the matter might not have been reported out of modesty. I pointed out that in that case it was odd that it should have been specifically reported only to the Daily Mirror, and secondly that, even assuming that were the case, it could not be a fault of the State if it could not follow up on a report on which there were no details - as I mentioned the Daily Mirror reporter had refused to give any further information or clarifications.

When you highlight Ms Fernando's claim that 'the incident was not investigated' I believe your failure to report the efforts made to investigate is at best disingenuous, and suggests an approach that is more interested in finger pointing than in trying to positively resolve human rights questions. As you know, we accept that there are problems, but we believe that these are exaggerated for political purposes, and those doing so are not at all concerned about alleviating suffering. This particular report only serves to confirm that view.

Yours sincerely

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretary General
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process

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