Sri Lanka expels Australian media rights activists

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka expelled two Australian media rights activists for violating visa conditions, the information minister has said, a day after they were detained while speaking with local colleagues.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said on Thusrday the two Australians - Jacqui Park and Jean Worthington - had come into the country as tourists but were engaging in "anti-government activism" in breach of their visa conditions.

"We have no personal interest in the two individuals, but they have broken the visa conditions," the minister said. "We are treating them according to the law. That means they will be sent back."

The local rights group, the Free Media Movement (FMM), said the two women were being subjected to lengthy grilling by immigration and police criminal investigations department officials for a second day on Thursday.

The pair from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) were detained on Wednesday at a hotel in Colombo while speaking with colleagues from the FMM.

FMM spokesman Sunil Jayasekera said Ms Park was on holiday and was simply meeting with her colleagues and not breaking any visa conditions.

Mr Jayasekera said they were still in the country and were originally scheduled to leave later Thursday or early Friday.

There was no immediate comment from the IFJ.

Sri Lanka is known to have blacklisted many foreign journalists over their reports on the country's human rights record and alleged war crimes in the final stages of the Tamil ethnic war in 2009.

Local journalists have also been the victims of crimes and many say they practise self-censorship.

An anti-establishment editor fled the country in August, less than a month after armed men held her at knifepoint.

In 2009 the Sunday Leader newspaper's editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, a staunch critic of the government, was shot dead near his office just outside the capital.

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