Derana NE: Leader Editor told him she had Fonseka tape

White Flag statement of former Army Chief
By Manopriya Gunasekara

When the High Court Trial-at-Bar on the ‘White Flag’ case resumed for the New Year this week, Derana TV News Editor Tharanga Dinusha Jayakody said The Sunday Leader Editor Frederica Jansz had told him she was in possession of the tape of the recorded interview with the main accused in the case, former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.

Earlier in her evidence before the Trial-at Bar, Ms. Jansz said that she did not have a recording of the interview with Mr. Fonseka as the office tape recorders had been taken at the time of her interview by other reporters in the newspaper.

Prison guards stop a journalist from approaching Sarath Fonseka as he leaves court on Friday

Mr. Fonseka is charged for stating in an interview to The Sunday Leader newspaper that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ordered not to spare any of the LTTE cadres surrendering even if they were coming with white flags.

Mr. Fonseka is charged with making a false statement to The Sunday Leader, arousing communal feelings and arousing anti-government feelings among the public and creating disputes among them.
The Trial-at-Bar consists of Judges Deepali Wijesundara (President), W.T. M. P.B. Warawewa and M.S Razeen .

Deputy Solicitor General (DSG) Bhuwenaka Aluvihare on Friday led the evidence of Derana News Editor Tharanga Dinusha Jayakody (TDJ).

Excerpts of the cross examination:

DSG: From where did you get the relevant tape to broadcast this news item?
TDJ: From our correspondent Gayan Kanchanamal Kudagama.
DSG: Did you use the full tape?
TDJ: Extracts from it.
DSG: Is the news broadcast recorded?
TDJ: Yes
DSG: Is it in your custody?
TDJ: It is in the library.
DSG: Can it be altered?
TDJ: The News Editor, News Director or even a senior person does not do that.
DSG: You used parts of the tape sent by the correspondent.
TDJ: Yes.
DSG: Who selected the part to be broadcast?
TDJ: I selected it.
DSG: Was it edited?
TDJ: I only used extracts, it was not edited.
The CD handed over by the Derana TV station was played in courts
DSG: Has the tape sent to you been altered?

TDJ: No.
Cross examination by Senior Defence Counsel Nalin Ladduwahetti (NL).
NL: Your news item starts as ‘However’.
TDJ: Yes.
NL: What is the part before that?
TDJ: The news item starts with a challenge. At a trade union meeting (former JVP MP) K.D.Lalkantha challenged Ms. Jansz to produce the recording of the interview with Mr. Fonseka.

NL: How do you know that Ms. Jansz has the tape of the recording of the interview with Mr. Fonseka?
TDJ: I called Ms. Jansz on her mobile. I have a recording of the conversation. I asked whether she has a recording of the interview with Mr. Fonseka. She said ‘yes’. I believed she had a tape. Therefore I included that fact in the news.

A copy of the CD containing the relevant news bulletin in the possession of the Defence was played at this point. (The statement by Mr. Lal Kantha in which he challenges Ms. Jansz to produce the tape of the recording of Mr. Fonseka’s interview is part of the CD contained in the news bulletin. Thereafter the news reader says that Ms. Jansz making a statement to Derana had said she was in possession of a recording of the interview with Mr. Fonseka.

NL: The tape has been changed from here onwards. I mentioned this earlier. Is the part played taken from the news bulletin of December 24, 2009?

TDJ: Yes.
NL: Is Lal Kantha’s statement included?
TDJ: Yes. Thereafter it goes on to say that Ms. Jansz has the recording of Mr. Fonseka’s interview. She could not speak fluently in Sinhala and therefore she explained in Sinhala and English. She said ‘yes’. Therefore I believed she had the tape and I included that fact in my copy.
I asked her whether it had been recorded. She said it was recorded. I asked do you have the recording. She said ‘yes’.
The witness was re-examined
by the DSG:
DSG: Did you ask whether the interview was recorded?
TDJ: Yes.
DSG: What was her answer?
TDJ: She said ‘yes’. Therefore I thought she had recorded it.
DSG: Do you know that the meaning of the word ‘recorded’ in English means ‘reported’.
TDJ: Yes.
DSG: Did you ever ask Ms. Jansz whether it was taped?
TDJ: No.
At the beginning of proceedings on Friday, extracts of Mr. Fonseka’s speech during the Presidential election rally in support of his own candidature in Ratnapura (where he is alleged to have said that he cannot defend the Defence Secretary if he had given any illegal orders) and used in the news bulletin was played. On Thursday the Derana TV Ratnapura correspondent Kanchanamal Kudagama (KK) continued his evidence.
DSG: Have you given evidence before this?
KK: Yes.
DSG: Was it regarding a professional duty you performed on December 23rd 2009?
KK: Yes at that time I was the Ratnapura correspondent for Derana TV.
DSG: Did you work for any other TV station as well?
KK: Yes, I also work for Swarnavahini.
DSG: Did you send an application to join Derana.
KK: No, they invited me as I was popular by working for Swarnavahini.
DSG: To gain a name as a good journalist, you should be accurate and truthful.
KK: Yes.
DSG: You take care to submit accurate reports.
KK: Yes.
DSG: Regarding this case too, your recording was accurate.
KK: Yes.
DSG: Has your reporting or video recording been questioned earlier?
KK: I cannot say anything about that as politicians raise various questions.
DSG: Were you informed to cover this particular rally?
KK: Yes, I was informed by the News Editor Asoka Weerasinghe to cover this rally.
DSG: Did you send this video recording to Derana TV?
KK: Yes. I sent it through a courier service.
DSG: Do you use the same courier service to send tapes to Swarnavahini?
KK: Yes.
DSG: What are the preparations you made to send this tape?
KK: I sent the three tapes in envelopes addressed to the institutions.
DSG: Can these tapes be reused?
KK: Yes.
DSG: Did they return the tapes you sent to the station on December 23, 2009?
KK: No.
DSG: Why is that?
KK: Media institutions are very busy. Therefore it is difficult to send the same tape back to me. I may have received some other correspondent’s tapes to re-record over them.
DSG: Does this happen only at Derana TV?
KK: No.
DSG: When did you send a recording made on December 23, 2009?
KK: On the same day. They should have received it on the following day.
DSG: Did you check whether the recording was done correctly on that particular date?
KK: I did a quick re-check.
DSG: At that particular rally did Mr. Sarath Fonseka speak?
KK: Yes.
DSG: On the day following the 23rd December there was another rally opposite the Ratnapura police station. Did you cover that rally which was addressed by Mr. Fonseka?
KK: No.
DSG: Is this the only rally of Mr. Fonseka which you have covered?
KK: Thereafter I have recorded two rallies.
DSG: Do you know one Mr. Jayakody of Derana TV?
KK: I cannot say that because I work from outside the TV station.
DSG: Did you come to know him even later?
KK: I knew him by name, but had not seen him. I saw him only when my statement was recorded.

At this stage Defence Counsel Nalin Ladduwahetti told Court he made an attempt to find the full speech made by Mr. Fonseka at the Ratnapura rally but that he was not successful. He said he also tried to access the Derana website and watch the news bulletin of December 24 but he could not access it.
Mr. Ladduwahetti said he tried to access the site from countries such as the United States and Italy and that too was not successful. However the bulletin of December 23 and December 25 can be watched uninterrupted, he added.

He said he, however, had been able to obtain a recording of the December 24 bulletin. He said the particular news item has four parts in it. Some of the facts contradict the evidence given earlier.

Therefore he requested that permission be granted to submit the recording of the full news bulletin.
He said that he had received information that the recording of the December 24 news bulletin at Derana had been altered and that had the tapes been in the custody of the Court it would have been a different matter.He said if he was given a copy of the news bulletin he could compare it with the copy of the recording in his possession.

DSG: Mr. Aluvihare said he had no objection in releasing a copy of the CD to Defence Counsel. This was the CD that was played the next day in Court.

The trial will resume on Tuesday January 11.

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