By Colombo Telegraph –
Seven days after the sacking of Ceylon Today Editor in Chief Lalith Allahakkoon the Free Media Movement released a ‘soft’ statement today claiming the issue had ‘caught the serious’ attention of the media rights group.
The statement was delayed several times over the last 72 hours and was a result of furious lobbying on the part of journalists and civil society activists during the past week. It comes one day after the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association issued a strongly worded release, in which it said that the sacking of Allahakkoon was “a disturbing development in the context of media freedom inSri Lanka, where the demarcation of the editorial independence and the ownership control has been increasingly blurred.”
The FMM says in its Sinhalese language release: “As a media organization which stands for media freedom and the betterment of the media industry, we are deeply worried and saddened about the incident. In a context where media institutions are under the jackboot of the government and media freedom is largely suppressed, incidents of this nature do not augur well for the functioning of media.”
A former FMM Convenor criticized the FMM statement, telling the Colombo Telegraph that it was a watered down and flimsy statement by the media rights group, that had chosen to act on the issue very late in the day. The SLWJA statement was far more concrete and formidable in its sentiment, the former FMM activist said.
Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that four senior journalists who resigned in protest of the sacking Editor in Chief wrote to Lalith Allahakkoon’s successor at Ceylon Today, Hana Ibrahim earlier today, appealing to her to allow the FMM to go ahead with its statement about the upheaval at the newspaper. Ibrahim is the former Treasurer of the FMM and presently serves as a trustee of the media rights group.
Below we produce the full statement issued by the Free Media Movement on the sacking of the Ceylon Today Editor in Chief and Senior Cartoonist, Wasantha Siriwardane:
June 21, 2012
The Free Media Movement notes with grave concern the decision made by the management of Ceylon Newspapers Ltd to terminate the services of Ceylon Today Editor in Chief and Editorial Director Lalith Allahakkoon and Senior Cartoonist Wasantha Siriwardane.
As per the statement sent to us by Mr. Lalith Allahakkoon about the incident, he has received notification of his termination only verbally and there has been no charge sheet issued and no written confirmation of his dismissal so far. Furthermore, Ceylon Newspapers has also not taken steps to justify the termination of Cartoonist Wasantha Siriwardane.
As a media organization which stands for media freedom and the betterment of the media industry, we are deeply worried and saddened about the incident. In a context where media institutions are under the jackboot of the government and media freedom is largely suppressed, incidents of this nature do not augur well for the functioning of media. Therefore, we urge the Sri Lanka Publishers Association, the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka and other media organizations to set the platform for a dialogue where a consensus can be reached on editorial independence and the rights of newspaper publishers.