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Last updated: 13 September, 2010 - Published 14:27 GMT
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Censorship 'mistake': Sunday Island editor

Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in Sri Lanka
Island editor says both the LTTE and the military wanted only their version to be published
A Sri Lankan commission investigating the final years of the war has been told that the government and military made a mistake in largely excluding journalists from the war zone.

It was hearing testimony from one of the country's most senior newspaper editors, who also said he did not believe there should be any 'witch-hunts' looking into alleged misdeeds during the war which ended 16 months ago.

The government often accused foreign and local reporters of being biased towards the Tamil Tigers or LTTE during the war.

On Monday the war commission's chairman put it to Manik de Silva, editor of the Sunday Island newspaper, that the media had played an 'unhelpful' role.


The editor said this perception arose because most reporting had to be based on hearsay as the authorities wouldn't let most journalists go near the war zone, except for a few from state media.

A commemoration for Sri Lanka newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramathunga
Lasantha Wickramathunga was shot dead in Colombo during the height of the war

He said that earlier, the Tigers had made life difficult for reporters living in places under their control.

"If they didn't report it in the way that the LTTE wanted it reported, then they were dead," he said.

"Similarly I think that was also true of the military – that when you were there, if you wrote something that was perceived as unhelpful or hostile to the military, you risked retribution."

Mr de Silva said there was no point in conducting 'witch-hunts' regarding who did what during the war.

Instead, he said, the country should recognise the need for healing and the government should make it clear that all citizens were to be treated equally.

In a novel suggestion he proposed that every Sri Lankan should pay a tax to fund measures to normalise the lives of those who suffered in the conflict, both civilian and military.

Manik de Silva also said he fundamentally believed that at grassroots level there was no real ethnic enmity between Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim people.

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