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Protest was organised by Ministry of Defence – Channel 4

The head of Channel 4 News and Current Affairs has told a Lords communications committee that a protest against the broadcaster earlier this year was arranged by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence.

Dorothy Byrne told the Lords committee, which is inquiring into the future of investigative journalism, that Sri Lanka had concerted “worldwide PR exercises against us", after the channel’s investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka.

See report from the Guardian here.

Speaking to the committee on Tuesday, Byrne said,

"They will not just try to threaten us with libel actions, they will launch worldwide PR exercises against us."

It was revealed last year that Sri Lanka was paying £3 million to British PR firm Bell Pottinger in an attempt to boost its post-war image and combat growing allegations of human rights abuses.

Byrne slammed the work of PR companies lobbying against investigative journalism, stating that it was something that "not just us but the whole of society needs to be aware of".

"They will try to make complaints against our bosses, leak stories against us to newspaper diaries, they will go to our regulator [Ofcom] and make potentially scores of complaints against us.

If we are doing a really big investigation that could take six months to a year … We have to be ready that we could be living with an investigation for a year after it has gone out.

Stories have appeared, for example, about our Sri Lankan investigation all over the world in a highly organised way.

They appear to be normal stories and they are not – they are obviously coming from somewhere. Demonstrations have taken place in the street – there was one outside Channel 4 – and this demonstration had been organised by the Sri Lankan ministry of defence."

Channel 4’s coverage of Sri Lanka, culminating in a documentary entitled “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”, has led to it winning Amnesty International’s Media award for two years in a row.

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