For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
R. K. Radhakrishnan
Sri Lankan media largely ignored the sensation created in India and elsewhere in the world, after the publication of new pictures which suggested that Tamil Tiger chief V. Prabakaran’s youngest son, Balachandran, was captured by the Sri Lankan forces ahead of being shot dead.
The English press, barring Ceylon Today, did not even carry the Sri Lankan rebuttal of the story. The main Tamil newspaper, Virakesari, carried the rebuttal prominently, but made this an excuse to carry the picture in question — where Balachandran is seen sitting in what Channel 4 describes as an Army bunker.
The Defence Ministry website hosted an Information Department release refuting the story. “Sri Lanka today flatly rejected Britain’s Channel 4 documentary titled ‘No War Zone – the killing fields of Sri Lanka’ to be aired in Geneva at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled to begin later this month as “concocted lies, half-truths and speculations” to embarrass the country at the summit.
It quoted military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya as saying: “This is not the first time such unsubstantiated allegations are levelled against the Sri Lankan forces. Interestingly, these come up as we near [a] UNHRC meeting and [the charges] die down thereafter. No substantive evidence has been presented for us to launch an investigation.”
“Unfortunately, it appears that the parties who float such baseless allegations never want these to be investigated or solved. They want to keep them as mysteries in order to tarnish the country’s good image as and when it suits their agendas.” Brig. Wanigasooriya stressed that if Channel 4 was interested in having these investigated, it should cooperate with credible evidence and the Army would institute a probe,” the release said.
Journalists of a few newspapers, pointed to Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid’s statement, when asked why the Sri Lankan media ignored it. They said the authenticity of the photos had to be established beyond doubt, ahead of these being published. A few also raised a question over the timing of the release of the pictures.
Not aware of his death: Fonseka
The former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka, who led the war effort, told the media that he was not informed of the death of Prabakaran’s youngest son. A local wire agency quoted him as saying that he was aware of the death of Prabakaran’s older son; but he was unaware of Balachandran’s case