South Asia

BBC granted access to Sri Lanka war commission

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission hears from Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse at hearings in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 2010
Image caption Human rights groups say the commission, which began hearings in August, is not independent

The Sri Lankan government has told the BBC that it can now have full access to cover the proceedings of a government-appointed war commission.

On Wednesday, the defence ministry had prohibited the BBC from travelling to cover the current hearings in northern Sri Lanka's main city, Jaffna.

The decades-long civil war, between the government and Tamil separatists, was centred around the north of the island.

Refugee camps in the region remain off-limits to media organisations.

Personal testimonies

The government says the commission will look into the final years of the civil war and make recommendations to stop another one happening.

But the defence ministry has twice blocked the BBC from travelling to northern Sri Lanka to report the testimonies of ordinary Tamil civilians before the seven-member panel.

On Saturday, however, three days after the latest ban, the office of the Sri Lankan president informed the BBC that it was henceforth free to cover the commission sittings wherever they take place.

On numerous occasions in recent months the BBC has been barred from travelling to the area of northern Sri Lanka beyond the town of Vavuniya.

The area is heavily militarised but the government says positive development and resettlement activity is going on.

The large refugee camps are gradually emptying but they too are off-limits to journalists.

Even though it now seems the war commission's hearings can be covered in the north, it is not clear whether more general media access to the region will be eased.

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