For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Sri Lanka Working Journalist Association (SLWJA) says it is extremely disturbed by the recent turn of events at Ceylon Today newspaper, where the editor in chief and respected journalist Lalith Allahakkoon was unceremoniously removed from all his duties by the management due to what believed to as a result of Mr Allahakkoon’s refusal to publish politically motivated and potentially libelous news stories sanctioned by the top management.
The SLWJA views the recent incident as a disturbing development in the context of media freedom in Sri Lanka, where the demarcation of the editorial independence and the ownership control has been increasingly blurred. The invasive interferences of newspaper ownership in the editorial independence of newspapers would compromise the very idea of media freedom in the country and we are afraid that this disturbing phenomenon is not confined to the recent events at the Ceylon Today newspaper.
In a context in which journalist associations, Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka and the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka are already campaigning together in order to improve the conditions of media environment and the competencies of media professionals, SLWJA believes that it is imperative that other existential issues, such as the need for a clear demarcation of editorial independence from the ownership control should also be explored as an urgent matter.
The SLWJA calls upon the management of the Ceylon Today newspaper to respect the editorial independence of its editorial staff and to take urgent remedial actions as per the incident related to Mr Allahakkoon.
SLWJA has extended its fullest support to the colleagues at Ceylon Today and plan to take its next course of action depending on the response from the management of the newspaper.