UNP spokesman and Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekera told Parliament last Wednesday that Sri Lanka has become one of the least safe countries for journalists, and called on the Government to ensure the security of journalists who were under threat.
“In 2006/2007, several journalists were killed or threatened or attacked,” Mr. Jayasekara said. “These are not people who have connections with the LTTE. Why are they being threatened in this way,” he asked.
“In a radio programme, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association secretary Poddala Jayantha was called an LTTE sympathiser by Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation chairman Hudson Samarasinghe. Now he can’t go to his house because three-wheeler drivers near his house are calling him a Tiger. Some journalists cannot even go to their houses any more. Journalists must have the right to work freely and express their views. The Government cannot appoint committees and try to hoodwink the people. I say such committees are a joke. The Government must ensure the security of any journalist who is under threat,” he said.
“There is now a government within the Government in this country. They are the ones responsible for attacks on journalists. I will not name them here. One thing I can say is that, whether it is the UNP or the SLFP, every government that has tried to suppress the media has only hastened its own downfall,” the MP said.
“Now the Government’s defence website is being used to attack journalists, and all kinds of regulations are being put in place to stop journalists from reporting on the war. There are now new rules that you cannot report on military operations, on promotions in the military, procurements etc.
“It was the journalists who exposed the import of cheap quality helmets for the Army. These helmets were so low grade that when a bullet hit, it would pierce the helmet and kill the soldier. It was because a journalist wore this helmet that this mistake was rectified and many lives were saved. Similarly, when poor quality aircraft, ships and helicopters were brought to the country, this was exposed by journalists like Iqbal Athas. Just because journalists expose corruption does not mean they are traitors.
“Today there is a war on the media, not a war on terror,” Mr. Jayasekara said. “There is, for the first time, a company that has been created for the procurement of weapons.
It is called Lanka Logistics. It is the only Government institution that does not come under the purview of the Auditor General,” he added.
“The Sunday Times columnists J. Tissainayagam has been held for 100 days without charges. We may not agree with what he writes, but he has the right to speak for the rights of his people and express them through his column. I would urge the media minister to look into this case and ensure that he is released if there are no charges against him,” Mr. Jayasekara said.