Rebel gains prompt crackdown on media

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The Independent Online

The Sri Lankan government hurriedly introduced a series of draconian laws yesterday, including censorship of the media, in the face of the most serious crisis in its 17 year war against the Tamil Tigers.

As 35,000 Sri Lankan troops on the northern Jaffna peninsula were reported to have been cut off by advancing rebel forces, it emerged that Sri Lanka had appealed to both India and Pakistan for help in evacuating its soldiers. Defence analysts believe that Sri Lanka does not have enough ships or aircraft to carry out such an evacuation on its own.

But India immediately ruled out any involvement in Sri Lanka, saying it would not help evacuate the troops cut off in Jaffna by the Tigers' advance, nor would it intervene militarily. Jaswant Sing, the Indian Foreign Minister said: "India will work to mitigate the hardship inflicted upon civilians by the conflict, taking such humanitarian measures as become necessary, in consultation with Sri Lanka." There are already more than 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees in India.

Announcing the censorship measures in Colombo yesterday, the government's Daily News said: "The Public Security Act was enforced with effect from midnight on Wednesday to ban all activities designed to encourage terrorism and disrupt the normal activities of people."

The Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera said: "Terrorism and the threat of terrorism should be defeated, at all cost, in the shortest possible time."

The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation said the government could seize property and vehicles, stop the distribution of papers seen contravening national security interests and shut printing presses.The government also imposed censorship on war and other reporting by representatives of foreign media based in Colombo.