Three days after visiting UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay warned that Sri Lanka was becoming increasingly authoritarian and said critical voices were silenced in the country, often permanently, the powerful Secretary to the Ministry Of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday said “illegal media sources” were engaging in false propaganda to damage the country’s image internationally.
He said it was the responsibility of every citizen, political group and media organisation to “exercise their democratic freedoms with responsibility and not engage in unlawful activity under the guise of exercising their freedoms.”
The Secretary MOD who was delivering the keynote address at Defence Seminar 2013, differentiated between ‘legitimate’ media channels, newspapers and websites that “freely operate” in Sri Lanka and “illegal sources” that engage in “false propaganda.”
Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned people should not abuse freedoms guaranteed through democracy with ulterior motives. “Rights and freedoms must always be exercised with responsibility; if not, negative consequences could ensue for the country at large,” he said.
One month after the military allegedly opened fire at a public protest for water in Gampaha, the Secretary MOD said: “In our democracy, there is ample freedom for people to demonstrate with regard any issue that they feel is important. This is a healthy sign of a vibrant democracy. However, when people go beyond peaceful demonstration and engage in violent protest, incite violence or act in other undemocratic ways, they exploit and abuse democratic freedoms. Certain groups with vested interests exploit legitimate demonstrations to show the country in a bad light-some of them confront the police, cause disturbances and even riots, and create a very negative image about the country internationally.”
The Secretary MOD warned that subversive elements with ulterior motives may use modern technology and connectivity to portray the country in a negative light.