BBC correspondent denied visa and told to leave Sri Lanka

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Charles Haviland, the BBC’s correspondent in Sri Lanka, has been denied a visa extension by the government and told to leave the country.

Charles Haviland

The respected journalist, who has been reporting from Sri Lanka since the final days of the civil war in 2009, applied for a one year renewal to his visa which expired this month, but was refused by the External Affairs Ministry and given a few days to leave the country.  Pressure from senior foreign journalists in Colombo led to the Ministry giving Haviland a three month extension, but he will then be forced to leave Sri Lanka for good.

Media Ministry secretary Charitha Herath said that Haviland’s visa extension had been refused because there was a 5 year limit on visas for foreign journalists.  Media Minsiter Keheliya Rambukwella said that granting Haviland any further extension would be “unreasonable”.

However, the Foreign Correspondents’ Association said that they were not aware of the rule, which had never been invoked before.

“The FCA is unaware of any time limits on visas issued to foreign journalists posted to Sri Lanka. However, we have noted remarks by the authorities that the Media Ministry will articulate in the coming week their policy on visas for foreign correspondents, and we look forward to seeing it,” FCA said in a statement.

FCA also noted that the existing the policy adopted by Sri Lankan authorities on foreign journalists is available on the External Affairs Ministry website, but it makes no reference to how long a foreign journalist can work in Sri Lanka.

The move to deny the BBC correspondent a visa will both increase worries about the freedom of the press, and also about the country’s visa policies, and what motivates the decision to allow or deny entry into the country.  Over the last 12 months, and particularly since CHOGM, foreign companies, NGOs, and even embassies have all reported severe difficulties in obtaining visas and visa extensions for their staff, without clear explanations for the reasons ever being offered.

The ejection of Haviland, who has occasionally been critical of the government, also comes at a time when the authorities in Sri Lanka are stepping up a campaign against what they claim is a “resurgence” of the LTTE.  Haviland has frequently reported from the North of the country and has a wide range of contacts there, but he will not now be able to report on the latest developments.


  • Densil

    The Nation said his visa has been extended.  Better to throw the bugger out and be rid of this kind of rubbish.  He represents a newer and more sinister form of colonialism that is trying to enter through the back door.

    • Holumng Pee

      @Densil  :  did you profit from the EPF  11billion loss? · 
      So today I am heering that our employees fund that is there to look after working peeples when they retiyer has lost more than 11 BILLION rupees in the stock market. I colling my Arsik Central Bank lokka Bernard Pagaagiving to ask him what happened. Conversashen went like this:
      Me: Ayse Bernard how did the employees fund lose that much money?
      Bernard: Aney sir, we gotting addice that some shares are going up becose they had been going up before.. so we boughting lot of shares and then we riyalized that the shares had stopped going up and what goes up must come donw ne sir, ithin our shares olso now started coming down…
      Me: So didnt you analize and see and buy only strong shares which will give good returns to the employee fund?
      Bernard: Sir sometimes when we buying shares from the high netting individuwals and oll we folow a policy of buying high and either selling low or buying high and not selling and not earning anything…
      Me: So you gifted 11 BILLION from the employee fund to certain peeples by buying shares at high prices?
      Bernard: Yes sir, but what everyone must riyalize sir is that the peeples who sold us the high priced shares and made lot of money are olso employees, so the Employee Fund has benefited a few employees, which is the main purpose of the fund!!!
      Me: (Face-on-the-palm)

  • Murali

    Except for the bit on the Lankan using the pretext of justifying its excesses on civilians on both sides of the ethnic divide and keep piling up more arsenal in the name of defense preparedness, rest of the article on how denial of visa to a BBC journalist is a cause for worry is hog-wash. It is an insult to 20 odd millions of Lankans as if they are spineless who can not stand up a dictatorial regime led by a megalomaniac political apology. When do we south asian get out of our colonial mindset `brown man/woman burden on the shoulders, key pads and democratic values. Please let us get our own life.

    B. Muralidhar Reddy
    The Hindu
    National Bureau, New Delhi