By Colombo Telegraph –
“It is a shame and very disappointing – it seems that some journalists are being supported by tax payers in two countries and with notions of conflict of interest and professional ethics and integrity thrown to the winds. The relevant authorities in both countries -this includes the BBC- should investigate as to how this could happen.” says Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu.
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and founder member of the Board of the Sri Lanka Chapter of Transparency International made the above remarks when asked how he saw the issue of senior journalists, particularly BBC World Service journalists applying for and receiving Rs. 1,200,000/- as an interest free loan from the state banks to purchase cars or vans. According to the Ministry of Finance Sri Lanka, the Treasury will pump in the interest due to the state banks for the loans under this scheme.
BBC Sinhala Service Colombo reporter Elmo Fernando and the Londoner BBC World Service – Sinhala senior producer Chandana Keerthi Bandara both applied the interest free loan from the Sri Lankan Government.
Meanwhile the Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that some media personnel who had received laptops and obtained vehicle loans, had defamed him in their publications the very next day.
“Last Sunday BBC Sinhala Service Colombo Reporter filed a distorted report on the Opposition Leader’s press conference and attacked him” a senior opposition legislator told Colombo Telegraph, asking for anonymity because he didn’t want to be targeted by the ‘laptop and interest free loan’ media. The BBC didn’t report what the leader said in full and just criticised him for not answering BBC questions. The BBC even failed to report what the questions were.
Listen to BBC Sinhala reporting on Ranil Wickremesinghe here at minutes 7.37 – 11.20.
Addressing new IT recruits at Sirikotha, Wickremesinghe said that the gifting of laptops and interest free loan to journalists and cartoonists, which coincided with the budget was no mere coincidence. It had been calculated to prevent the media from highlighting the burdens placed by the budget on the poor suffering masses.
“I see this interest-free motor vehicle loan as a sort of a ‘bribe’. I don’t think it’s appropriate at all for a BBC journalist to take this. Obviously it will damage their credibility.” the former head of the BBC Sinhala Service Vasantha Raja told Colombo Telegraph.
BBC guidelines says; “A conflict of interest may arise when the external activities of anyone involved in making our content affects the BBC’s reputation for integrity, independence and high standards, or may be reasonably perceived to do so. Our audiences must be able to trust the BBC and be confident that our editorial decisions are not influenced by outside interests, political or commercial pressures, or any personal interests.There is a danger of conflict of interest in every area of programme or content making. Each department or team must be aware of its area of vulnerability. There may be particular sensitivities for on-air talent.”
“The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial. The public must be able to trust the integrity of BBC programmes and services. Our audiences need to be confident that the BBC’s editorial decisions are not influenced by the outside activities or personal or commercial interests of programme makers or those who appear on air.”