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Sri Lanka 26 December 2007

France 24 journalists freed after being held for two days

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release today of two French journalists employed by the French TV news channel France 24 - reporter Capucine Henry and cameraman Constantin Simon - who were arrested on the evening of 24 December in the southern district of Galle while travelling with a Tamil family. Henry has been told she can stay in Sri Lanka to do a report on a Bizet opera performance in Colombo.

"We applaud the efforts undertaken by French diplomats, which helped to get Henry and her cameraman freed," the press freedom organisation said. "After being arrested while doing a report on the life of a Tamil family, the two journalists remained in detention because they had not yet registered with the foreign ministry in Colombo."

Reporters Without Borders added: "We appeal to the government in Colombo to show more flexibility with foreign journalists and to let them work freely in Sri Lanka, including when they are doing reports on members of the Tamil population."

Henry is normally based in New Delhi, working for a French production company. She and Simon were arrested on the evening of 24 December while accompanying a Tamil family that was going to pay a Christmas visit to jailed relatives. The minibus carrying them and the family was stopped at an army checkpoint. The soldiers got angry when they filmed the roadblock and called the police, who arrested everyone in the bus.

Henry and Simon were interrogated by members of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), who told them they had committed a "breach of national security." The authorities also took offence at their failure to register with the foreign ministry’s press service.

The TID has told journalists in Colombo that the Tamil family and the minibus driver will also be released.

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