Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media Nimal Bopage has launched a Goebbels style operation to prevent the country’s media stations from giving publicity to the “Pada Yatra” protest march by the joint opposition.
In stark violation of the principles of good governance, the Ministry of Mass Media has formed an “unofficial task force” to prevent media institutions from disseminating information about the “Pada Yathra”, organised by the Joint Opposition.
The “unofficial” task force is headed by Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka. Deputy Media Minister Karunarathna Paranawithana, Media Ministry Secretary Nimal Bopage, Government Information Director General Ranga Kalansooriya and heads of the President’s Media Unit also serve as members of the group. Colombo Telegraph is now in a position to reveal that the Goebbels style “task force” has been initiated by Bopage.
Bopage, quite interestingly, is an official who faced multiple corruption and abuse of power allegations when he previous held administrative positions in state institutions. He came under criticism for misusing vehicles and other resources when he previously held senior administrative positions. When Piyasena Gamage last year assumed duties as the Minister of skills development and vocational training, he immediately removed Bopage from the position as the Chairman of Vocational Training Authority.
“Bopage’s group will monitor media reports about the Joint Opposition’s Pada Yathra on a daily basis and exert pressure on the heads of prominent media stations to refrain from giving publicity to the Pada Yathra,” an informed source told Colombo Telegraph.
“This is no different from what happened under the Rajapaksa administration. The Media Ministry was used for similar kinds of operations under the previous government and that clearly amounted to abuse of power and state resources,” the source also added.
He stressed that the Media Ministry’s move to use its resources for political activities should be investigated and action should be taken against everyone, including the Deputy Media Minister and the Government Information Director General who portray themselves to be champions of freedom of expression and the Right to Information. “For instance, using the Media Ministry’s resources for a political operation of this nature is illegal and it clearly amounts to abuse of power. If they actually believe in good governance, they cannot even use the ministry premises for meetings and discussions in this regard,” he further added.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation’s main news bulletin on Friday night strongly resembled the Rajapaksa administration which turned state media into a mere mouthpiece of political authorities. It gave a one-sided coverage of the Pada Yatra while twisting the story to suit the government’s propaganda on the matter.
Many good governance activists who watched Rupavahini news on Friday expressed disappointment and disgust over the government’s media practices.