JVP leader says President has no powers to muzzle media

Anura Kumara - JVP

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had issued a veiled threat to media freedom, on Saturday, when he said he knew how to teach lessons to media critical of him, JVP leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said yesterday.

Addressing the media at the JVP headquarters in Pelawatte, Dissanayake said that the President’s statement was a threat to what remained of media freedom in Sri Lanka. “The president in his statement says that he did not exert any influence on media during his 14 months in office as if he had that power but did not use them. The President should first understand that he has no such powers to influence or intimidate media institutes.

“Secondly, the President says that he has given media freedom. We like to remind the President that media freedom is not a licence that should be obtained from him. It is not a privilege that he grants to the media. Media freedom is the right of journalists and people of the country to know the truth. That is a right recognised by the Constitution. People and journalists enjoy that right thanks to struggles the progressive forces of the past waged to win and maintain those rights. The worst is the threat by the President that he knew how to teach lessons to media and he was ready to do so. We cannot comprehend his mind-set when he issues such threats.”

Dissanayake said that the recent past of this country had witnessed many such lessons taught to media and journalists by various rulers from time to time. “One of the studios of Sirasa TV was destroyed in a claymore mine attack. The Leader Publication House situated within a high security zone was set on fire twice. Siyatha Media house was bombed and set on fire. Lankaenews office was set on fire. Those were the lessons taught to media institutes. Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed. Prageeth Ekneligoda was abducted. Poddala Jayantha was abducted, assaulted and his head shaven before being dumped on the roadside. Keith Noyahr, Upali Tennakoon were beaten. Those were the lessons taught to the journalists.

“The President should understand that times have changed. The journalists and media institutes have learned from their past experiences. If the President realises that truth, he will not make such statements. People know that there are media institutes that unashamedly toe the government line. Those are the ones that prominently publish and broadcast the snake story of the Kelaniya temple and promoted the Dhammika Peniya. The President can support his crony media but he has to respect the media culture in the country.”

JVP Central Committee Member Samantha Vidyaratne also addressed the press.

(Source: The Island – By Saman Indrajith)