Gothabaya threatens Mirror editor over Karuna story
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 03:22 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa threatened the editor of a leading English daily on Tuesday, saying the paper’s coverage of actions of the Karuna Group had angered the Army-backed paramilitaries, a media watchdog said. Mr. Gothabaya, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had Tuesday morning telephoned Ms. Champika Liyanarachchi, editor of the Daily Mirror to say she should not be surprised if the Karuna Group turned its violence against her and if so, she shouldn’t expect government protection, the Free Media Movement (FMM) said.
In an article titled ‘Karuna faction running its writ in Pottuvil’ on Monday, the Daily Mirror reported the paramilitary group “is creating havoc in the Muslim-dominated Pottuvil town in Ampara, moving around freely with weapons in government-controlled areas while law enforcement authorities are allegedly turning a blind eye.”
The Defence Secretary had told Ms. Liyanarachchi her paper’s story had angered the Karuna faction and, furthermore, was written against the Government, the FMM said.
In the eventuality of Karuna Group violence against her, Mr. Gotabhaya had said Ms. Liyanarachchi should not expect any security from the government to protect her, the FMM said.
Citing another article by Daily Mirror reporter Uditha Jayasinha titled ‘Mutur IDPs: Battling a man-made tsunami in the guise of war’ Mr. Gothabaya “had continued his vicious tirade by castigating the reporter and expressing his severe displeasure that the article carried negative remarks on the Sri Lankan Army by displaced people,” the FMM also said.
“These statements of the Defence Secretary beggar belief,” the FMM said.
“This gross misconduct of a high-placed public official clearly demonstrates the challenges facing free media in Sri Lanka today. … Given the volatile situation in the country, the FMM also fears that this threat sends a chilling message to the media community at large in Sri Lanka.”
The FMM noted that on previous occasions as well, government leaders had criticized Daily Mirror over is coverage of the conflict.
“It is an open secret that government leaders and close allies are pressurizing independent media to toe its line on war and peace. We see this latest development as a calculated process of coercion by the Government that forces media to abandon its role watch-dog of democracy, and instead adopt the supine role of a lap dog to those in power.”