Meanwhile Dharisha Basitians has been appointed as the Editor of ‘The Observer’ published by the state-owned and government controlled Lake House.
Bastians has won multiple awards for excellence in journalism. Lake House has the reputation for toeing the line the particular government in power. It comes under the Media Ministry and political loyalty is a non-negotiable prerequisite for anyone holding a top position.
Ranawana is well-known in media circles as a ‘tourist journalist’ who chooses to take up positions in Sri Lanka in ‘safe times’. He worked at Lake House as the Editor of the Daily News from April 2002 to March 2003, during the short-lived UNP regime under current prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
He was hired as the Director News at Maharaja Television for a fat purse and worked there briefly before being recruited as Director, Sri Lanka College of Journalism run by the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI). Not only did he secure a handsome remunerative package but even convinced SLPI to recruit his wife.
Ranawana left the island along with his family in April 2008 when they secured Canadian citizenship
Bastians has worked in several newspaper houses including the one owned by Alles. She left Ceylon Today along with the then editor, Lalith Allahakkoon and others, complaining of the management of curtailing editorial independence. Alles is also notoriously devoid of basic journalistic ethics.
After taking up these positions, both Ranawana and Bastians, who make out that they are liberal and independent journalists, have called and emailed independent columnists urging them to write for the two politically compromised publications they are in charge of. These columnists have been told that they could use pseudonyms if they so wish. Many of these columnists contribute to Colombo Telegraph.
Some of the columnists who spoke to Colombo Telegraph said that they are being offered payment, raising the concern that there is an attempt to co-opt them and force them to compromise their independence.
Colombo Telegraph notes that independent columnists with a liberal orientation when they agree to write for payment have been forced to dilute their contributions.