Sri Lanka 'wipes data' as Australia journalist expelled

COLOMBO - Sri Lankan authorities on Friday wiped all the data from the computer of an Australian media rights activist as she and a colleague were kicked out of the country, a local rights group said.

Jacqui Park and fellow Australian Jean Worthington were packed onto a plane that flew out of Colombo airport a day after authorities ordered their expulsion for for "anti-government" activities.

But, according to members of the local Free Media Movement (FMM), Park was only allowed to board after plane-clothes investigators removed all data from her personal laptop at the end of two days of questioning.

"They were told by the immigration officials today that it was all a big misunderstanding," FMM spokesman Sunil Jayasekera told AFP.

"They went through everything in the computer. When they gave it back to her, everything had been erased," Jayasekera added.

There was no immediate comment from immigration authorities who detained the pair - both members of the International Federation of Journalists - during a meeting with FMM colleagues at a hotel in Colombo on Wednesday.

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

Sri Lanka has 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.