Colombo Telegraph

Fake News, Lake House & Colombo Telegraph

By Saman Wagaarachchi

Saman Wagaarachchi

Three years ago, the term ‘fake news’ wouldn’t have made an impact in Sri Lanka because media was curtailed, journalists were kidnapped or shot for their dissenting views and websites with opposing views were shrouded to secrecy.

Enter Colombo Telegraph. It proclaims ‘in journalism truth is a process.’ That truth seems to be a veneer of lies when you have cultivated an online platform where ‘journalists’ can argue the pros and cons of treating women like chattel, the legalism of child marriage and corporate information without an iota of fact checking is published for public consumption like Gossip Lanka.

Yesterday, CT had published a news article saying ‘Lake House Directors To Be Replaced: Presidential Committee Finds Fault With Editorial Director

Two key points from the article are as below:

1: ‘It has been identified as the main reason for the abysmal performance of the company’s two Sinhala newspapers – Dinamina and Silumina – which have failed to show any progress in terms of sales, under the current management.’

Fact check: The sales of the ‘abysmal titles’ can be verified with the latest publication of the LMRB and as per Survey Research Lanka. This can also be cross-checked with me, the current Editorial Director at Lake House.

2: ‘The committee is to recommend the removal of Wagaarachchi from the current position.’

Along with Wagaarachchi, other directors too will be replaced to bring in a new management to the company, several top sources of the government added.

It is learnt that one member of the new board of directors will be nominated by President Maithripala Sirisena. The new member, according to sources close to the President will ensure that the President gets due coverage from the Lake House newspapers.’

Fact check: The board of ANCL is under no obligation to answer to this allegation but as of now, an inquiry is being made with respect to editorial improvements to be made across all the newspapers being circulated under the ANCL portfolio.

In the age of fake news, Donald Trump and the GOP were able to secure him a US Presidency. As the general public, we should perhaps be vigilant because online media needs to be strictly scrutinized to not mislead the public. Perhaps, the former President i.e. Mahinda Rajapaksa needs to adhere to this adage by Stephen King; “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us.”

Over to you, the reader, don’t be fooled. Fact check the Colombo Telegraph who have perhaps diluted the truth in its process.

Editor’s Note: While standing by our story, Colombo Telegraph is now in a position to present a comprehensive account of the interaction between the Presidential Committee and the Board of Directors of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited.

The Presidential Committee on the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited met the company’s board of directors and members of the senior management, in two separate meetings, on March 29, at the conference room of the company.

At the commencement of the meeting, ANCL Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka and its Finance Director presented details about financial performance of the company, including the growth of revenues and repayment of debts obtained by the previous management.

They also briefed the committee members on the corporate strategic plan of the company.

After this initial presentation, the committee members observed that despite the growth of revenue and the repayment of debts, the performance of the company’s newspapers are “abysmal”. in terms of content and sales.

Attorney-at-law Chandrasiri Seneviratne, a member of the committee, explained the manner in which previous managements of the company took measures to drive sales and increase readership of the Lake House newspapers.

At this point, former Supreme Court Judge Nimal Dissanayak, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee, commended the Daily News newspaper, saying it has shown great progress in terms of content, under the current management of the company.

However, the committee members concluded that performance of the two Sinhala newspapers has been disappointing. Editorial Director Saman Wagaarachchi is directly in charge of the editorial management of the two Sinhala newspapers. He does not get involved in the affairs of the company’s English and Tamil newspapers owing to language constraints .

Numerous mistakes on the part of the Sinhala newspapers, including factual errors and careless mistakes, were raised by committee members, to which the board members failed to respond.

These issues were also attributed to the Director Editorial who was responsible for the editorial management of the company.

Ridiculing the performance of the Sinhala newspapers, a committee member challenged the Director Editorial to reveal the circulation figures of Dinamina. No response was given. The results of LMRB or other surveys were not even mentioned during the Director Editorial’s discussions with the Presidential Committee.

This set the background for the Presidential Committee’s conclusion that the Director Editorial should be held responsible for the administrative failures of the editorial department.

In addition, a derogatory Facebook page, run by a Director of the company, has also created a heated situation among the members of the company’s senior management. Evidence has been found to prove that a member of the Director board had written derogatory posts for the Facebook page by the name of ‘Lake House aaraksha karanno’.

As a result of these issues, the government is now rushing to bring a new management, under a new Chairman, to administer the affairs of the state-run newspaper company and to streamline its operations.

Therefore, we wish to state that Mr. Saman Wagaarachchi’s claims on fake news have no bearing on us.

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