For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Editors Guild comprising all newspaper editors yesterday released the following statement:
The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka unreservedly condemns the statement made recently by reinstated Deputy Minister Mervyn Silva who reportedly stated at a function held in Kelaniya on Thursday 9th September that ‘journalists should not write in a way which would ultimately force them to be hanged.’
“When you look at some of these people who write about me and scold me I personally know their background is not good,” he had said.
Considering the history of abuse and serial attempts at intimidation of the media by the Deputy Minister, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka view the comments made as totally unwarranted and unbecoming of a Government Deputy Minister.
The Guild would normally dismiss these comments as those of a political maverick, but his history of violent abuse of media institutions and personnel which have been followed by damage to property and physical harm to individuals is reason for concern. The most recent humiliation of a public servant and his subsequent exoneration by a so-called party disciplinary inquiry instead of the matter being put to a court of law enhances The Guild’s concern that there is no attempt to restrain the Deputy Minister.
If any individual holding political office or otherwise is aggrieved by anything written by any journalist, there is ample legal recourse available and aggrieved persons can also use the self-regulatory mechanism of the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka as a forum to air their grievances and compel erring journalistic publications to make amends.
However to state that journalists who do not write the truth ‘would be hanged’ is a very serious abhorrent and damnable statement that cannot go unchallenged in the circumstances.
The Editors’ Guild calls upon the President to rectify the situation by ensuring that threats of this nature are not issued against media personnel, or anyone engaged in the pursuit of their chosen profession, and the Deputy Minister chastised for uttering such threatening statements.
President The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka
Manik de Silva