In stark violation of principles of good governance, the management of the state-run Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (Lake House) has ordered all its publications to refrain from carrying former President Rajapaksa’s “Medamulana statement” as the lead story on Thursday (July 02nd).
All the newspapers in the country, except Lake House publications, carried former President Rajapaksa’s statement as the lead story, considering its news value.
On July 01st, Lake House Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka and Director Editorial Saman Wagaarachchi had come under pressure from the Prime Minister’s Media Unit, headed by Saman Athaudahetti, over a picture of Mahinda Rajapaksa carried on Page 01 of the Ceylon Daily News. Colombo Telegraph is now in a position to reveal that the Prime Minister’s Media Unit had exerted pressure on the Lake House management after UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrama informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe about the page 01 picture of the Ceylon Daily News.
This is no different from the system adopted by the Rajapaksa regime to control the state-run newspaper company and to make it a mouth-piece of the previous government. Under the Rajapaksa rule, no editorial independence was given to Lake House and mere political stooges were appointed as Editors.
The Elections Commissioner requested all political parties to desist from using state resources and public properties for their election campaigns. Recent developments in the state-run newspaper company show that it is not willing to adhere to parameters set by the Elections Commissioner for media.
Apart from controlling Lake House to benefit the election campaign of the UNP, the government did not any action to pass the Right to Information Act in Parliament before its dissolution. Right to information was an integral part of the 100 day progamme presented by Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government.
On the other hand, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, some months ago, said he would present a special report disclosing actions that were taken to news websites, including Colombo Telegraph, under the previous regime. Samaraweera’s “special report” too did not see the light of day although the new government stayed in power for six months.
When asked whether there was any instruction from the Prime Minister’s office to refrain from carrying the former President’s speech as the lead story, Lake House Chairman Kavan Rathnayaka declined to give a direct answer.
“I read Colombo Telegraph but I don’t question you,” he said in response to our question.
UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrama was not available to comment.