SLFP politician Malsha Kumaranatunga slammed Derana Media Tycoon Varuni Amunugama on Thursday, after a newspaper owned by Amunugama’s media house slandered female cartoonist and artiste Shanika Somatilake.
“If you are speaking about women’s empowerment and have set up a newspaper to promote it – a good way to start is not to shame and label women for just having an opinion. Women with opinions don’t have psychological disorders. Women with body confidence are not mentally ill,” the SLFP woman politician said in a post uploaded on Facebook and Twitter.
On Wednesday 14th July, the Dharanee newspaper, a tabloid women’s weekly owned and promoted by Amunugama published unauthorised pictures of Somatilake clad in swimwear in an article that claimed those who post “half naked” pictures on social media were mentally ill. The same issue published an article claiming that those who criticized “public figures” were attention seekers suffering from personality disorders.
The attack from Amunugama’s media house came after Somatilake published a series of videos on Twitter parodying remarks made by the media mogul in a controversial interview with host Alanki that was widely condemned on the internet.
— 🌱Shanika (@Nikshazz) June 28, 2021
Kumaranatunge noted that business leaders, especially those running media organisations with the ability to influence millions, are and should be open to the same level of accountability and scrutiny as any other public figure. “Money, wealth and connections shouldn’t make anyone of us immune from the consequences of what we say and do,” she said.
She said there were ways to address bullying if people were feeling aggrieved. “But using unauthorised images and labelling women with opinions or body confidence as having psychological disorders is not the way to redress a grievance. This is also bullying – on a much larger and more dangerous scale,” Kumaranatunge charged.
“Business leaders, especially those running media organisations with the ability to influence millions, are and should be open to the same level of accountability and scrutiny as any other public figure. Money, wealth and connections shouldn’t make anyone of us immune from the consequences of what we say and do”
The SLFP politician expressed solidarity with Shanika Somatilake, saying she had also been subject to bullying and sexual harassment.
“I understand the hurt and pain it causes. I also understand that anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment – even the most powerful and ‘magical’ woman,” Malsha’s statement said.
Alluding to Amunugama, she urged public figures to grow a thicker skin about criticism.
“As a public figure I have come to accept that I will be criticised and even ridiculed for what I do and say. As public figures, I believe that we should be open to a higher level of scrutiny than the general public. That comes with the job unfortunately. After all, our words and actions have a wider impact,” she said.