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BBC Crew Asked to Leave as Sri Lanka Tightens Censorship With AM-Sri Lanka

July 14, 1989

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ A BBC-TV crew left Sri Lanka Friday on orders from the government, which has imposed strict censorship amid ethnic violence and a dispute about the pullout of Indian peacekeeping troops.

Reports reaching India said the five BBC staffers were expelled, but a BBC spokesman in London said ″expelled″ was too strong a word. ″We were asked to leave,″ he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They are the first journalists ordered to leave Sri Lanka since President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s government imposed censorship July 6.

Correspondent Kate Adie, who arrived in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo on Sunday, and four others were asked to leave Thursday, the BBC spokesman said.

″We haven’t had an explicit explanation from Kate, but we assume it has to do with the state of emergency,″ the spokesman added.

He said picture editor Russ Crombie arrived in Colombo on Wednesday and his equipment was later confiscated.

The spokesman identified the other crew members as producer Bill Groom, cameraman Eric Thirer and soundman Fred Scott.

A BBC radio reporter based in Colombo remains.

The Swiss-based International Press Institute sent a message to Premadasa expressing concern.

″We consider your government’s action violates internationally recognized standards of press freedom,″ institute director Peter Galliner said in a message published in Zurich.

Under Sri Lanka’s censorship rules, all local and foreign correspondents are supposed to submit news and photo dispatches to a government censor.

The censor has ordered deletions that include details of political assassinations and public remarks by Cabinet ministers.

More than 12,500 people have died in ethnic violence that started in 1983 with an insurrection by guerrillas from the Tamil minority against the Sinhalese majority. A 1987 Indian-sponsored peace accord, under which Indian peacekeeping troops were dispatched to Sri Lanka, has failed to end the violence.

Premadasa has demanded the 45,000 Indian soldiers withdraw by July 29, but India has said it cannot leave until the peace pact is fully implemented.

Update hourly