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India, Sri Lanka and a question of censorship Add to ...

New Delhi - For months now, as the already grim situation in northern Sri Lanka has deteriorated, there have been rumours in India that the government is censoring media coverage of the conflict there, in order to avoid inflaming the already angry and very large Indian Tamil population. Tamils here are watching the Sri Lankan governments assault on the final strongholds of the erstwhile Tamil independence movement in considerable consternation. (In the complex political chess game of the region, the Indian government tepidly backs the Sri Lankan government, despite the heft of the Tamil community, because its sympathy for the Tamil rebels was permanently scotched with their assassination of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.) Its never entirely clear from the rumours how the government might be achieving this censorship, given the robust nature of India's unfettered media except maybe by asking nicely. But here's a funny thing: over the past 10 days, as I was working on a profile of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, various Tamil sources around the world e-mailed me links to recordings of his speeches, and his rare public appearances, and a few videos of other people who know him speaking about him. And I couldn't watch them. I didn't get the usual, red YouTube no longer available message. I got a strange black screen apologizing and saying I could not view the requested content. Ive never seen it anywhere else, on any other type of content. I tried other viewers, other routes. Same problem. Yet when I checked with people in countries outside India, they could view the videos just fine, using the same links. I've e-mailed YouTube to ask for an explanation - no response yet - and I have a natural caution about conspiracy theory. But seems a little funny, no? I can watch all the trashy gossip or stupid pet tricks I want. But I can't watch a single thing that involves Prabhakaran addressing the faithful. Not in India. Not today.

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