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Channel 4 News team targeted by baying Sri Lankan mob

By Darren Boyle

A Channel 4 news team had to be escorted from a train by police in Sri Lanka through a baying mob who stopped them from investigating alleged human rights abuses.

The team is in Sri Lanka to cover the biennial Commonwealth heads of government conference. However, before the talks, Channel 4 wanted to speak to families of people thought to have been kidnapped by the state.

The journalists were followed on a train to cover the conference by Sri Lankan secret police. Five hours after leaving the capital Colombo a large mob of pro Government demonstrators blocked the train.

The protestors accused Channel 4 of receiving money from the Tamil Tigers terrorist group and ordered the news team to return to the capital.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague are due to attend the biennial Commonwealth heads of government summit despite significant concerns over human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

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Editor of Channel 4 News Ben de Pear said President Mahinda Rajapaska said his team could visit any part of the country.

“It would seem entirely contrary to the promise of free access to all parts of Sri Lanka, which the president has repeatedly made.

“I do not know why the authorities do not want us to travel north, but we are hearing reports that families of some of the thousands of people who have disappeared in this country have been held in northern Sri Lanka and are reportedly being assaulted by the military."

The director of No Fire Zone, Callum Macrae, who is among the Channel 4 journalists stopped by the mob said: “The British government made clear that one of the conditions for its attendance at the Commonwealth summit was that the international media be free to do its job.

“The Commonwealth is bound by core values which include respect for democracy, human rights and freedom of expression and it is extraordinary that the host nation and future chair of the Commonwealth is openly flouting every one of those principles.”

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