For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
October 13, 2010,
Repercussions for exposing the ‘powers that be’ are well known
No media institution criticised the 18th Amendment
by Zacki Jabbar
The new media culture was to criticise the opposition and not the government, the UNP said yesterday. Lakshman Kiriella MP, addressing a news conference in Colombo, said that journalists were scared to criticise the ‘powers that be’ because they knew what would happen to them. “So, instead of exposing the Mahinda Rajapaksa government’s blatant violation of the rule of law, human rights and good governance, which was the role of the media, it was resorting to the new media culture of bashing the UNP and other opposition parties, since it was safe to do so.”
Even when the 18th Amendment, which abolished the good governance provisions contained in the 17th Amendment was introduced, not a single media institution criticised it. This, then was the true state of the Sri Lankan media, which was living in mortal fear of the Rajapaksa administration, he said.
Kiriella, said that the imprisonment of Retired General Sarath Fonseka was also used by the media to find fault with the Opposition and not a word was uttered against the government’s ungrateful treatment of a man who oversaw the defeat of the LTTE.
Describing Fonseka as a political prisoner, regardless of the various interpretations that are being given, he said that the UNP would continue to agitate for his release.
The “Court Martial II, which imposed a 30-month jail term on General Fonseka, was conducted in secrecy with the public and media debarred from attending the proceedings. Fonseka has also been deprived of his parliamentary seat. What if the Appeal Court overturns the Court Martial verdict? Would this not tantamount to a further injustice?” Kiriella queried.
Referring to the ruling by Court Martial I, he said that there was no proof to say that Fonseka’s son-in-law was an owner of the said HiCorp subsidiary, which had supplied some equipment to the military during Fonseka’s tenure as army commander.
The treatment of Fonseka, proves what the international community has been saying right along about the absence of the rule of law in Sri Lanka under the Rajapaksa government, Kiriella said.