By Indi Samarajiva –
All too often, this is how the government play goes. Someone, usually a Rajapaksa, says something ridiculous. In this case, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa called a journalist a ‘pig who eats shit’ and said ‘people will kill you’, all over a puppy story. I know. Then, rather than dialing down on the issue, in this case media freedom, the government dials up the crazy, this time by imposing an onerous tax on online media.
Basically, before the media and ordinary citizens are finished being offended by what Gotabhaya said, the Media Minister is asking online media to pay Rs. 100,000 to prevent ‘raw filth’. It’s mind boggling because this is what the Defense Secretary was speaking, including threats to violence, which should be taken seriously cause the last Editor of the Sunday Leader was killed. Literally, if Frederica Jansz was sitting in her usual office, she was at the same desk that Lasantha Wickremetunge was at before he was killed in the streets.
And then the government turns around and imposes an onerous and chilling tax on online news, because they’re purveying raw filth. Does the government want a monopoly on that?
Far too often, the reaction to a government embarrassment is to double down on stupid by making it policy. In this case, a leader threatens a journalist in raw filth, and the government starts cracking down on online media right after. It’s adding injury to insult, and the injury is to the right of speech held by you and me.