by Karu Jayasuriya M.P
The Sunday Leader newspaper has reported in their latest edition that Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, has abused their Editor Ms Frederica Jansz in obscene language, threatened and intimidated her.
He is quoted, among others, as having told her “You are shit, shit journalist. A f……g shit. A pig who eats shit….. I will put you in jail… People will kill you. People hate you…… They will kill you. I am not afraid of the bloody courts.”
The state run media which names and shames anyone who expresses dissenting views has, however, not reacted with lightning speed to deny the report. Nor has the Ministry of Defence, one that is also equally adept at naming, shaming and even threatening the media.
There remains an unpleasant record of their dealings with the media.
One can only conclude therefore that The Sunday Leader account is an accurate report of conversations with Defence Secretary. As the Defence Secretary, this is the first time ever, an official of such high stature has thought it fit to use vulgar, obscene language and intimidate a journalist. This is also the first time an official has spoken publicly so contemptuously about the law courts in this country.
Can the public have confidence to seek any fair play and justice from such a high official, who is behaving like a dictator? His conduct can only bring shame and disrepute to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his entire cabinet. Equally, it can give the country an even poorer image as the Government struggles today with their High Commissioners and Ambassadors abroad to give the Sri Lankan image a clean look.
I do not always agree with the views expressed by The Sunday Leader. I am aware there are journalists including Editors who hold this view. However, The Sunday Leader has its own readership and what it says has to be respected whilst one reserves the right to disagree.
I commend the Editor of The Sunday Leader for informing the people of Sri Lanka and those abroad of the hardships they face only because of the arrogant and irrational conduct of one official, who has usurped more powers than anyone else. This is why the media has been muzzled to the point of self-censorship for fear of harassment, intimidation, abductions and threats of death. Some journalists have even died.
As a citizen standing for justice and fair play I call upon media rights group in Sri Lanka and abroad to unite in condemning the remarks by the Defence Secretary. It is because the right for journalists to express their views without fear, harassment, intimidation and death threats has to be ensured. Otherwise the semblance of what now remains as media freedom will soon fall prey to fear and intimidation
This is when an official tasked to protect citizens including journalists says he does not “care about Courts” and warns an Editor that “people will kill” her. In no civilized, democratic countries are such abhorrent statements made.
(Text of Press Statement by Hon. Karu Jayasuriya M.P-12th July 2012)