Sri Lanka: Renewed attack against Channel 4 documentary as “fake” (VIDEO)

By Kithsiri Wijesinghe

The Sri Lankan government renewed its attack against damning war crimes evidence aired by London based Channel 4 TV despite the UK regulatory body clearing the broadcaster of any wrongdoing.

'Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields' an investigative documentary by multiple award-winning journalist Callum Macrae, first broadcast in June 2011, was slammed by a powerful minister, who is also the official spokesman for the Sri Lanka president’s party as “fake, fabricated and stage-managed” footage.

“They were fake, fabricated and stage-managed things, which were shown at the time,” as requested by the “extremist Tamil diaspora,” Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) stalwart, Mahinda Samarasinghe told journalists in Colombo.


The footage included evidence of prisoner executions, sexual violence and the targeting of civilians allegedly by the military in the final stages of the bloody war that killed an estimated 70,000 civilians, almost all Tamils.

Minister Samarasinghe sits in a ten member  panel appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena to determine the fate of thousands who did not return after surrendering to the military almost a decade ago.

The minister who used to repeatedly deny that the country’s security forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, when he represented the government at the UN as the minister for human rights, categorically rejected allegations that Sri Lankan forces killed rebels in detention.

“Actually, what they (C4) wanted at that time was to give publicity to what the extremist Tamil diaspora wanted to say,” said Mahinda Samarasinghe.

Cleared by OFCOM and UN

Channel 4 first broadcast shocking images of Sinhala speaking troops executing Tamil prisoners in August 2009 from inside the war zone.

The video apparently filmed by Sri Lankan government soldiers, containing what is believed to be the first ever exposure of war crime evidence, was made available to Channel 4 by JDS.

The government at the time led by Mahinda Rajapaksa flatly dismissed the footage as “fake”, but a UN report said the video “appears authentic” and that there was no evidence that the video was faked.

Minister Samarasinghe went on to tell journalists that Channel 4 carried on with its broadcasts of the damaging footage despite complaints to what he called the “press council” in the UK.

OFCOM, the UK's broadcasting standards regulator, which had received over a hundred complaints, had verified the authenticity of the footage.

“It is Ofcom's view that the broadcaster therefore ensured that the audience was not materially misled regarding the nature of the content by taking reasonable steps before the broadcast to establish that the material was not faked or manipulated, and informing the audience of those steps during the programme," said its 10 page report released in October 2011 following an investigation.

CNN and Al Jazeera

Minister Samarasinghe who did not make it clear to local journalists that Sri Lanka was unsuccessful in its complaint against Channel 4, went on to accuse several other international media outlets of airing fake news about the Sri Lankan war.

He alleged that CNN and Al Jazeera broadcast incorrect information given to them over the phone by government doctors in the war zone as ordered by the Tamil Tigers.

Four doctors who were the key source for many media outlets at the height of the war, used to describe shelling of hospitals and killing of civilians.

They were arrested after reaching the frontline at the end of the war and paraded in front of scores of journalists to recant their stories.

Some who managed to flee the country later, revealed the harrowing experience of been threatened by the military and trained by Colombo based journalists to give a pro government version of events during the war.

JDS with its international partner Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has provided information to the UN about the doctors being subject to inhuman treatment while under detention of the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Allegations about war crimes resurfaced when SB Dissanayake, a parliamentarian from President Maithripala Sirisena's SLFP acknowledged that troops executed surrendering rebels.

In an unsuccessful attempt to disown his earlier statement, following the denial by the party spokesman Samarasinghe, parliamentarian Dissanayake went on to say, “those who surrendered to the military may have been killed in custody by the Tamil Tigers.”

He did not make it clear how rebels managed to execute those in government military detention.

Sri Lanka’s Office of the Missing Persons (OMP) has made it clear that its priority is to establish the fate of thousands who surrendered to the military.

Its recommendations has been passed on to a cabinet subcommittee led by Cultural Minister Wijaydasa Rajapakshe.

Other members apart from Mahinda Samarasinghe are Sarath Amunugama, Rauff Hakim, Vajira Abeywardena, Mahinda Amaraweera, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, P Palani Digambaram, Thalatha Athukorala and Mano Ganesan.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.