29 September, 2020

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Sunday Leader, Unpublished Right Of Reply And Lazy Journalism

By Arjuna Ranawana  –

Arjuna Ranawana

I decided to go public with the following story because all our efforts to get a right of reply or a comment published on a story that appeared in the Sunday Leader of December 23, 2012 has failed.

In the last weeks of December a story appeared in the Leader headlined Bodhu Bala Sena To Rebel Against “Muslim Extremists” by-lined Raisa Wickrematunga and Niranjala Ariyawansha.

The report described a meeting that is purported to have been held on November 30 at the Navinna Raja Maha Viharaya, where Sinhala Buddhists opposed to Muslims had gathered to launch a “rebellion” against a Muslim “conspiracy.”

Much of the report relied on a document and an interview with the Coordinator of the Bodhu Bala Sena the Ven Aluthweva Ananda thero.

The article described inflammatory speeches made at the meeting by several leading lights in the movement against Muslims .

While I cannot speak to the authenticity of the meeting or the speeches that are purported to have been made, where the report goes terribly wrong is that it says this this document was “circulated by one Anupama Ranawana”….and mentions that the aforementioned “Ranawana [who] was present at the meeting.”

The document itself was circulated by an unnamed source. My daughter – Anupama Ranawana – also received it. She is a doctoral student resident in the United Kingdom and as the material in the document carries some relevance to her research, she passed it on to an activist and researcher colleague in Colombo in order to verify the events described within and also to gather information on the group Rebellion ‘12 . As it was unsigned and did not have the name of an organization on the forwarding list, verification of the facts was important.

Anupama was not the original source for the document, its circulation nor did she “attend the meeting” as reported by the Leader.

On reading the article my daughter sent the Editor of the Leader newspaper  a Right of Reply, which was not published in the next issue of the newspaper.  She then posted her Right of Reply as a comment to the article, which too went unpublished. All her efforts to get a correction published in the Leader have failed.

It is doubly galling because both Anupama and I have been contributors to the Leader. In fact there is one article co-authored by the two of us published by the Leader that remains in its archives. It would have been so simple for the reporters on this story to send an email to Anupama and check with her directly as to whether she was the source of the document and also request her permission to use her name if she was, in fact, the author of the document.

Also, knowing the nature of the people involved in these extremist organizations, lazy journalism that incorrectly infers that Anupama is some sort of “mole” reporting on the activities of these bodies and “circulating” that information places her directly in harm’s way.

More significantly, this incident highlights a very serious case of falling standards at the Leader, a paper which has always had a reputation for forthright and serious journalism.

In the past several months, we have seen the paper issue apologies to government ministers, and publish edited versions of articles that would throw members of the government in a bad light.  As many in the media now yield to the severity of the Rajapaksa oligarchy, I am sad to see the Leader also drop its head in meek acquiescence.

For the year ahead, Sri Lanka faces many battles.  True processes of reconciliation and reform must be put in place that acknowledge the immense suffering of marginalized, and the slow eradication of minority rights and representation in post-war Sri Lanka.  As the attack on University students in Jaffna shows, even peaceful protest is inadmissible in the face of an army and a government acting with absolute impunity.

In such a situation, the media is often looked to as a check against the force of the state. It is not the time for lazy, opportunistic or sycophantic journalism.  People at the Leader should know the consequences of such reporting. When my friend and former colleague, Lasantha Wickrematunge was the Editor of  the Leader, certain sections of the State Media painted him a “traitor.” Lasantha was many things, but traitor he wasn’t. He found immense courage to expose the wrongdoings of the highest of the land because he truly loved Sri Lanka. But by painting him a traitor, those who wanted him out of the scene were able to justify his killing.

Also during Lasantha’s time responses to his stories, both positive and negative were published.

In failing to verify its facts, and denying my daughter a Right of Reply the Leader has shown how woefully low it has fallen.

Here’s hoping that the current staff at the Leader will have the courage to revive the spirit of that newspaper to its original independent self; until then, its motto, “unbowed and unafraid” remains meaningless.

Copied below is the Right of Reply which my daughter emailed to the Editor of the Leader, and later posted as a comment to the article; it was never published.

With regards to the above article I wish to make the following comment.

Assuming that the Anupama Ranawana that you are referring to in your publication is me,  I wish to state that while I was in receipt of this document describing the Rebellion ’12 event, I am not the original source of its circulation. I did notify a fellow activist/researcher about its existence whilst attempting to find some information for my Doctoral Thesis. When I received this document it had no author and it was unsourced. It was sent on by myself out of academic interest. As I do not reside in Sri Lanka, I neither attended the meeting at Navinna, nor am I the author of the document in question. It may have been best practice for your reporters to have contacted me to verify its source.   I am posting this response here as my original email to the Editor seems to have gone unheeded. It is sad to see that the Leader, a newspaper that used to boast very high standards, is losing them. 

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Latest comments

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    While the State and the army trashed anyone and everyone – notable MP Sumanthiran, MP Sampanthan, MP Suresh Premachandran, Mano Ganesan et al – who wrote or spoke critically of the role of the armed forces breaking into the University and using violence on the students there last November, here we have a prominent Sinhala journalist noting for all to see “as the attack on the Jaffna University students shows even peaceful protests is inadmissible in the face of an army and a Govt acting with absolute impunity” Does it require an incident in the South – where one in the majority suffers the denial of those fine features assured in the Constitution – for us to remember the obligations of the State and its armed forces to its very citizens.

    Senguttuvan

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    Arjuna perhaps needs to come to terms with the fact that the newspaper he mentions has had a change in management and ownership, almost simultaneously. Therefore it follows that a different philosophy and operating procedure might have been put in place since. As fortunes change with time, so do principles and loyalties, I suppose.

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      Exactly. Earlier it was “unbowed and unafraid” – now its cowed and afraid.

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    I really feel sorry for Mr Ranawana and his daughter’s plight. Under the prevailing lawless climate anyone who appears to oppose Sinhala supremacy is considered a traitor and bumped off with impunity. It is a shame that the Sunday Leader did not have the common decency to publish Ms Ranawana’s right of reply.

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    Interesting to see anti-Rajapaksa goons tripping each other in their race to spread the worst of rumours about the coming disaster?

    Since when id Wickramatunga’s daughter bacame a journalist. Is jaournalism running in the family blood? The whole place is a den of lies and vicious rumours and change of ownership has not changed anything.

    • 0
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      TO TOL POKKA,

      YOU WILL GET A FAT BONUS WITH YOUR PAY CHECK AS.
      MIND YOU,
      BUT AT THE SAME TIME, CURSES OF THE PEOPLE ALSO FOLLOWING YOUR BOSSES, YOU TOO.

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      Couldn’t agree more ! They always reported irresponsibly at the Leader. Most of their sensation seeking articles were factually incorrect.

      Now it has become a mediocre also ran in the field of Journalism in Sri Lanka that is full of 3 legged asses anway !

    • 0
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      Idiot pol tokka is obviously a good name for you. Arjuna Ranawana is totally unlike you. He has no need to suck up to any body. He comes from a decent set of parents with a good value system. Obviously his daughter , is following in his foot steps. Even about CRAP he writes decently. So buzz off and suck up all you like. Will not be for long

  • 0
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    Thank you Piranha for speaking towards our ‘plight’. I think the greater plight and sorrow is experienced by those in Sri Lanka, both non-Sinhalese and Sinhalese who have been rendered voiceless by the government, and even more so by a media that refuses to give voice to the same. That the Leader has not even the guts to publish the right of reply of a doctoral student, whose father is a well known journalist in SL,and therefore is in a position to have more voice than others, is saddening, for it makes me wonder how many are similarly rejected representation and justice. elitist and privileged narratives on all sides of the debate dominate the way in which Sri Lanka is viewed and allowed to progress. This is the real plight, that there is no viable battle being allowed to happen.

  • 0
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    Hello: Welcome to 2013, when no one or nothing is safe! No one in Govt. or sycophants (who believe they too are in Govt. and so immune) wants to be corrected, they believe they are infallible, any one who points out their failings is anti Govt.

    It is therefore the duty of every individual to fight this arrogance, stupidity, and belief that they are above the law. Let us soon show them what the law really is and prosecute, give them a fair trial, something they will not give us, and then if guilty, punish them WITHIN the full force of the law, all of which they have denied the rest of us, who do not subscribe to their sense of right and wrong.

    Let is be a lesson to all that there are consequences when you take the law into your own hands.

  • 0
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    Where were you all when the Tamils were murdered in thousands by MaRa. At that time you all cheered him for murdering Tamils. Now you are getting it

    • 0
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      Hi Raja

      Obviously, you have not been reading anything that we have written about respecting the freedom and rights of all Sri Lankans, irrespective of who they are. Look us up. You will find articles by my husband Arjuna, our daughter Anupama, and myself.

      We speak for justice and don’t take sides.
      And we are unafraid to speak out againtst anybody.

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        Bless you. We need people like you and your family to keep fighting this undemocratic regime and it’s mouthpieces.

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        Have you ever written any article about LTTE brutalities against innocent civillians? American bombing in Iraq, Afganistan, Libia and Pakistan-Afgan border?

        Were you critical of the assasination of Alfred Doraiappa, Laksman Kadiragarmar, Neelan Thiruchelwan, Rajini Thiranagama or Lalith Athulathmudali or wrote anything about them?

        Have you written anything about the British colonisation of Ceylon and their brutalities during the colonial period? The distruction they commited to my county, culture and religion? which continues to the date.

        What is your point of view on Indian ‘Parippu Operation’, training innocent Tamil into callous assasin in Tamilnadu.

        You dont take sides because you or your family has no skin to show, or no spine to stand high to say I am proud Sri Lankan.

        Dont say you are impartial freelace. There is no such impartial journalism. You write what your boss want to say. BBC’s recent scandal is a case in point.

        I suppose your familly is seeking limelight from obscurity. No Ranawanas were seen in any where written worth reading. You may be a journalist like Eknaligoda, with calibre, who call himself a journalist. Nevertheless, I have utmost sympathy for you family for what Sunday Leader(SL) has done.

        SL never stuck to good journalism, including Lasantha W. I don’t see a journalist anywhere in the world who bluntly criticise their own county because the rgime is diplorabale, except in Sri Lanka. Sunday Times and The Island are of exceptional papers with very good editors. They criticise the regime to the hilt but defend the country from any front.

        I suggest you to read recent interview with respected diplomat and acadamic Dayan Jayathilake, if you want to know about what happen in Jaffna university and why Mahinda is still a good leader. However, I am not a fan of MR nor his economic management but indebted for liberating the country from synical maniac Prabhakaran. Same goes for Gota and Sarath Fonseka.

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          First of all, you should get lessons in the English language-your spelling is bad. What you said about the Tigers is correct-they were terrorists allright. Can’t you see that these village godaya thugs from Medamulane are as bad as the Tigers? obviously you don’t understand what a true democracy is. Let me educate you here—in all democracies, there is something called the free media whose duty it is to expose corruption. This is not considered anti government unlike in Sri Lanka. Also remember that two wrongs do not make a right.

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    To Pol Tokka
    Why do you hide your true name “Pol Booruwa” when you write rubbish like that? I want to make a couple of things straight:
    (1) That’s Pol Booruwas like you who are (likely) in the media and who wash dirty clothes of this wicked regime who divide the media as pro-Rajapakses and anti-Rajapakses. If a journalist is true to his conscience, education, training and media ethics, his/her her writings will dig into and reveal the truth (the facts or that which is compatible with the reality) and such writing will demand justice. Of course, the Pol Booruwas who eat the egg hopper and kiribath breakfast from the Temple Trees (at the expense of poor masses )every morning and have “thithata matha” at night will see it as anti-Rajapakses, because they will lose all such privileges if the regime falls down. Pol Tokka must hit his tokkas on the heads of backboneless journalists who have sold their conscience to Rajapakes . They hide the true plight of the suffering Sri Lankan people and super luxury lives of Rajapakses and their henchmen in an attempt to avoid frustrated people rising against the regime. I do not know whether Arjuna Ranawana is in pro or anti-Rajapkse camp. One thing I clearly know:He is a JOURNALIST who has stood for and practiced correct journalism. If his writings hurt Pol Booruwas, can’t help. Truth is never delicious – it is bitter.
    (2) Pol Booruwa has not understood the head and tail of this article. That is why he is uttering nonsense. I am so sorry about my dear Mother Lanka. She will continue to be robbed, abused and destroyed by the regime until those Pol Booruwas are the opinion makers of our society.

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    Jaffna protest was not PEACEFUL. It was done by the students who did terrorist training in India. Mr.Ranawana and others should need to find the fact and talk as he himself suggests.

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