For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe has said that he is writing to Lord Christopher Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust regarding the misconduct of its journalists.
He was talking exclusively to the web based Colombo Telegraph.
Two of its journalists, BBC World Service producer Chandana Keerthi Bandara and the Colombo Reporter Elmo Fernando, applied Rs. 1,200,000/-each by way of interest free loans from the state banks to purchase cars or vans, where the interest will be paid by the Treasury using tax payer money. This is part of a Government scheme but the move has been criticised by media rights organisations and the opposition as an attempt to purchase loyalty, the Colombo Telegraph reports
“The BBC must investigate its journalists for this and it is clearly a violation of its principles, I ‘m writing this to Lord Christopher Patten and also table the letter in Parliament,” the leader of the opposition said.
The Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that some media personnel who had received laptops and obtained vehicle loans, had defamed him in their publications the very next day, according to the report.
“Last Sunday BBC Sinhala Service Colombo Reporter filed a distorted report on the Opposition Leader’s press conference and attacked him” a senior opposition legislator told Colombo Telegraph, asking for anonymity because he didn’t want to be targeted by the ‘laptop and interest free loan’ media. The BBC didn’t report what the leader said in full and just criticised him for not answering BBC questions. The BBC even failed to report what the questions were, as reported by Colombo Telegraph.
Addressing new IT recruits at Sirikotha, Mr. Wickremesinghe said that the gifting of laptops and interest free loan to journalists and cartoonists, which coincided with the budget was no mere coincidence. It had been calculated to prevent the media from highlighting the burdens placed by the budget on the poor suffering masses, reprts Colombo telegraph.
Meanwhile, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and founder member of the Board of the Sri Lanka Chapter of Transparency International, said t is a shame and very disappointing – it seems that some journalists are being supported by tax payers in two countries and with notions of conflict of interest and professional ethics and integrity thrown to the winds. The relevant authorities in both countries -this includes the BBC- should investigate as to how this could happen.”