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Chandrika and media freedom

[DailyMirror, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 20:33 No Comment]

hpa0b0efhqpgqaijvocje045_editorial One certainly runs a risk of receiving a big applause from the present regime and obliterating its encroachments on democracy if one ventures out to talk about democracy, especially media freedom under Chandrika Kumaratunga.

However considering the remarks the former President made to Indian media during her recent visit to Kerala one is certainly tempted to make a few comments.

Talking about Sri Lanka’s democracy, she has reportedly expressed her concern about the restrictions on media freedom, among others, under the present administration. Had anybody else with better credentials or track record made the above comments, no freethinking man or a woman would have objected.

However Chandrika Kumaratunga is one person who woefully lacks that moral authority to champion the media rights given her treatment of the media.

The following are excerpts from a statement issued by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) on the CBK government in March 2001.

‘Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned by your government’s further tightening of censorship restrictions …The recent regulations are the most draconian ever imposed on the media in Sri Lanka, according to local journalists’

‘Criminal defamation laws were still used to punish journalists who criticized the government, and the president herself successfully sued the editors of the country’s two most prominent English-language dailies. On September 5, the High Court sentenced Leader Editor Wickramatunga to a two-year jail term for criminally defaming the president. The sentence was suspended for five years. And on December 5, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Sinha Ratnatunga, Editor of The Sunday Times, who in 1997 was sentenced to 18 months in prison for criminal defamation. Ratnatunga’s sentence was suspended for seven years.’

There were dozens of other statements both by local and international media bodies condemning the media policy and harassment of journalists by her administration. One may well recall how the so-called advisers and the PSD manipulated the media situation and went on a witch-hunt against prominent media persons as well as artistes.

This is in no way to say that things are any better now. In many ways, it is worse.

However it’s indeed annoying to see her posing off as a champion of media rights of Sri Lanka as somebody who is genuinely concerned about the journalists here forgetting the manner in which she predated upon media to suit her agendas.

Reading through the lines of what she told Indian media, it is obvious that the  sole intention behind her remarks was to distance herself from her own party that is in power now and to perch herself on a pedestal far above the others.

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