For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The staff of Rivira Media Corporation are shell-shocked at the decision by the new management of the newspaper group to stop the salary of Rivira Founding Editor Upali Tennakoon. Tennakoon who has been in exile in the United States after he and his wife were brutally attacked by unidentified gunmen on motorbikes in January last year, is set to return to Sri Lanka in August this year, even though his attackers are yet to be brought to book.
The attack which came just weeks after Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated was believed to have been carried out by government-affiliated goon squads.
According to staff at the newspaper Tennakoon has supervised the publication of Rivira via the internet and telephone and the Company was continuing to retain him as Editor, since he was overseas only because his personal safety was under threat.
However since Rivira Media was purchased by a businessman last month, the first executive decision by the new management has been to stop Tennakoon’s remuneration.
The decision to stop Tennakoon’s salary has been made by newly appointed CEO Sunil Lakmanasinghe and General Manager Mahinda Wijeyasuriya, LNW learns, although each is trying to shift the blame to the other when questioned by angry staff.
Staff members told LNW that if this was the way the new management was going to treat a respected editor who was made to seek sanctuary overseas because of attacks by what was in all probability a government goon squad, they could expect nothing from the new owners of the newspaper. Journalists have decried the decision as being inhumane and lacking in common courtesy towards a man who has been badly victimized in the war against the media.
Upali Tennakoon was formerly editor in chief of the Divina newspaper and a former President of the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka. He is widely respected across the country as one of Sri Lanka’s most senior journalists.