23 September, 2018

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WikiLeaks: Mahinda Produced Upali Tennakoon To Justify His Claim

By Colombo Telegraph

“Rajapaksa produced a recently published interview with Mr. Upali Tennakoon, President of the Sri Lanka Editor’s Guild, in which Tennakoon stated he had never experienced pressure from the Government but that the United National Party was exerting considerable pressure on the media to publish pro-opposition stories. Boucher expressed appreciation to Rajapaksa for bringing the article to his attention and stated the Embassy’s willingness to investigate the matter further.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

President of the Sri Lanka Editor’s Guild in a hospital bed after two years

A leaked “CONFIDENTIAL” US diplomatic cable, dated May 15, 2007, updated the Secretary of State on Assistant Secretary Boucher’s visit to Sri Lanka, written by the Ambassador Robert O. Blake shows President Rajapkasa used Upai Tennakoon’s interview to justify his claim that GSL never intimidated Journalsits.

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” and discuses “Press Freedom situation in Sri Lanka under the subheading “FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: ESSENTIAL TO DEMOCRACY” .

The Ambassador Blake wrote “In his meeting with President Rajapaksa, Boucher also addressed Sri Lanka’s deteriorating record on media freedom, citing the number of Tamil journalists killed in the last year. Rajapaksa dismissed claims of violence against Tamil journalists working for Uthayan and Sudar Oli as nothing more than “Tiger propaganda.” Boucher rejected this, and emphasized that protection of journalists critical of the government is one of the hallmarks of democracy.”

“Rajapaksa asserted that the Government never intimidated journalists in Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa produced a recently published interview with Mr. Upali Tennakoon, President of the Sri Lanka Editor’s Guild, in which Tennakoon stated he had never experienced pressure from the Government but that the United National Party was exerting considerable pressure on the media to publish pro-opposition stories. Boucher expressed appreciation to Rajapaksa for bringing the article to his attention and stated the Embassy’s willingness to investigate the matter further. However, he reiterated, it was not the United National Party who was responsible for killing Uthayan’s journalists in Jaffna and again urged the President to safeguard freedom of the press.”

However the same Upali Tennakoon was attacked two years later and forced to leave the country. He is currently living in USA. Meanwhile another leaked US diplomatic cable contradicts Rajapaksa’s claim that “violence against Tamil journalists working for Uthayan and Sudar Oli as nothing more than “Tiger propaganda.” His brother and Chief Advisor Balsil Rajapaksa said to the US ambassador ‘looked like’ EPDP cadres, along with the SLN, had perpetrated the mid-August burning of the pro-LTTE Uthayan newspaper office in Jaffna.

You can read Upali Tennakoon’s original interview here. (Sinhala)

28. 02. 2012 -This article has been revised to reflect the following issue:

Today we received a gross translation of the interview in question form the former President of the Editors Guild Upali Tennakoon. Below we reproduced it in full. You can read it after the US cable.

Related stories;WikiLeaks: “looked like” EPDP and SL Navy burnt the Uthayan – Basil to US

Below we give the relevant part of the leaked cable;

VZCZCXRO5431
OO RUEHBI RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #0702/01 1351143
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151143Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6038
INFO RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0386
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0093
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7074
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 5165
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 3735
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 0949
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 3806
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 1074
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2886
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 7660
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5341
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0199
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2025
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 000702

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS
MCC FOR D NASSIRY, E BURKE AND F REID

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/10/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM MOPS CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: BOUCHER TELLS GOVERNMENT TO GET HUMAN
RIGHTS ABUSES UNDER CONTROL

REF: A. COLOMBO 591
     B. 2006 COLOMBO 2078

Classified By: Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr., for reasons 1.4(b,d).

1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  After meeting with human rights and
non-governmental organization leaders in Jaffna, Assistant
Secretary Boucher urged Sri Lankan officials to control

SIPDIS
paramilitary groups' human rights abuses and encourage
greater freedom of the press.  The Government asserted that
it is not involved in human rights violations and has no
control over those that are, specifically blaming the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for the deteriorating human
rights conditions in Sri Lanka.  While acknowledging that the
Tigers are guilty of serious human rights violations, Boucher
refuted arguments that the Tigers are solely responsible for
Sri Lanka's problems.  Paramilitary factions like the Eelam
People's Democratic Party and the Karuna faction are engaging
in hundreds of human rights violations, he stated, and the
Government is capable of controlling these groups.  Boucher
also flatly rejected Government assertions that it was not
engaging in human rights violations against the media, citing
specific examples of journalists killed in places and at
times that could only have been accomplished with the
knowledge of Government security forces.  He stated that the
international community is beginning to lose faith in the
Government, and Sri Lanka is suffering as countries,
including the United States, begin to curtail economic
support both because of Sri Lanka's weak human rights record
and because the of the escalating conflict.  Boucher urged
officials to reverse these trends before it is too late.  END
SUMMARY.
10.  (C)  In his meeting with President Rajapaksa, Boucher
also addressed Sri Lanka's deteriorating record on media
freedom, citing the number of Tamil journalists killed in the
last year.  Rajapaksa dismissed claims of violence against
Tamil journalists working for Uthayan and Sudar Oli as
nothing more than "Tiger propaganda."  Boucher rejected this,
and emphasized that protection of journalists critical of the
government is one of the hallmarks of democracy.  Rajapaksa
asserted that the Government never intimidated journalists in
Sri Lanka.  Rajapaksa produced a recently published interview
with Mr. Upali Tennakoon, President of the Sri Lanka Editor's
Guild, in which Tennakoon stated he had never experienced
pressure from the Government but that the United National
Party was exerting considerable pressure on the media to
publish pro-opposition stories.  Boucher expressed
appreciation to Rajapaksa for bringing the article to his
attention and stated the Embassy's willingness to investigate
the matter further.  However, he reiterated, it was not the
United National Party who was responsible for killing
Uthayan's journalists in Jaffna and again urged the President
to safeguard freedom of the press.
BLAKE

National security should not be betrayed for political gains- By Manoj Abayadeera

Upali Tennakoon, President of the Editors Guild , Rivira Chief Editor and Former Editor Divaina

Q: Conflict reporting in Sri Lanka has now become a contentious matter. This argument took a new turn when Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa allegedly threatened the Editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper. The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka came under heavy criticism on the basis that it remained silent over the incident. How do you view this situation?

A: Well, first of all when we analyse the incident between Defence Secretary and the Editor of Daily Mirror newspaper, no other person is involved in the incident except those two. But Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe charged that the Editors Guild did not even issue a statement until the opposition raised the matter. But that is completely a false allegation. We issued a statement on time. The Editors Guild cannot issue statements suddenly and carelessly without ascertaining the truth. The EGOSL issues statements on behalf of the media and the media personnel of the country. That is our practise and tradition. But political parties obviously have a different approach. They can issue various statements on various matters, having many ulterior motives in the back of their minds. May be that is why they want the EGOSL to issue media statements according to their whims and fancies. But as an organization we cannot act irresponsibly. That is the difference between political parties and the EGOSL.

Sri Lanka is country where there is a national crisis. Everyone is concerned about the national security. It is a hideous act to betray the country and the national security for petty political gains. In a context like this, journalists and newspaper editors have a great responsibility. This doesn’t mean that the journalists should give false information to the public. But they should not give arms to the terrorists also. So media at large should act very prudently and responsibly.

Q: addressing a conference in Ghana recently, the Opposition Leader had said that the journalists in Lebanon and Israel engage in conflict reporting without getting carried away with patriotism. In other words, he is indicating that the Sri Lankan journalists are overwhelmed with ‘patriotism’. Should there be patriotism in conflict reporting?

A: there is a great difference between the terms ‘racism’ and ‘patriotism’. The Opposition Leader is highlighting the incidents in Lebanon and Israel; but what happened in America? The US President George W. Bush is also talking about patriotism, American identity and national sentiments. The American media support such ideas and they all work according to a common agenda. It is not a secret anymore.

But what is Mr. Wickremesinghe’s concept about reporting sans patriotism? Does it mean that we should support terrorists?

Q: if the journalists cling to terms such as ‘our army’ ‘enemies’ and ‘patriotism’, wouldn’t that invariably result in a censorship where truth becomes concealed?

A: there is a significant difference between a democratically elected government and a terrorist organization. That is the media has a right to stand up against terrorist organizations. This is not a battle among Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim communities. Many people, even the elements in the government, misinterpret this problem as an ethnic conflict. There is no ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. This is absolutely a terrorist problem. If there is an ethnic conflict, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities cannot live together outside the North and Eastern provinces.

Q: it is widely alleged that the government is curbing media freedom using battle against terrorism as a shield. And it is also said that he EGOSL keeps mum on this. What is your reply to that?

A: as far is I know, there is only allegation of that nature and that is Parameshwaree’s (mawbima) incident. There was another incident where some trade union activists being arrested by the police. Some term this as an act against media personnel, too. But I don’t think it cannot be termed as an act of curbing media freedom.

Well, when Parameshwaree was arrested we did not issue a statement because we were also confused to a certain extent. She was arrested along with a suicide bomber and therefore we had to wait for the outcome of the initial investigations. EGOSL , a i said earlier, cannot issue statements like a political party. But even the UNP did not issue any statement when she was arrested. The Opposition Leader did nit raise that matter in Parliament. Soon after she was released the UNP organized a felicitation ceremony merely to get a political advantage out of that incident.

Q: some editors accompany President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his foreign tours. in official tours to other countries. due to this, according to the opposition leader, the editors have become stooges of the government. Has the EGOSL has also become a servant of the government?

A: No. there is nothing like that. When our politicians are in the opposition, they jabber about media freedom. When the Opposition Leader was in power,some Editors accompanied him too. the UNP sent gifts to some editors regularly. Political parties so things like that and it is not strange. in a context like this, no one can blame the editors for accompanying the President in his official tours. that doesn’t make them stooges of the government.

when the head of state extends such an invitation, it is indecent to decline it. having double-standards on such matters is obviously bad.

There is another aspect of this problem. if the Defence Secretary threatened the Editor of Daily Mirror newspaper we certainly condemn it. But the Opposition Leader too, in a public meeting, castigated a newspaper editor and threatened him. To me, there is no great difference between the two incidents.

Q: The Opposition Leader raise his voice on behalf of media in both local and international domains. one can say that it is a clear indication on the jeopardized media freedom in Sri Lanka

A: I can give a clear cut answer for that question. To me, there is no interference. I don’t have close connections with politicians. out of the few politicians whom I deal with, the majority affiliated with the United National Party. I have never experienced any interference from the President or any other politician. Even the colleagues who work with me in the same editorial, have never experienced any interference from the government. Recently, when the Opposition Leader levelled allegations against the EGOSL, I asked my fellow editors as to whether they have any interference from the government. They clearly said there is no interference.

But I told them that I have a problem with the Opposition Leader since he levels baseless allegations against me and the EGOSL. I think he is trying to intimidate the editors.

Different people can define these remarks in different ways. but I am speaking on behalf of media. On the other hand, the Opposition Leader was the one who triggered this argument. He can appear for

press freedom. But he cannot intimidate anyone. I cordially urge the Opposition Leader to look into the matters of his own party and work for the betterment of the party.

Instead of doing that, he is advising the EGOSL. I think the EGOSL does not need any instruction from him. We work independently and appear for the freedom of media and media personnel.

We formed the EGOSL in 1994, when Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga sued the editors under the Criminal Defamation law. I must gratefully admit that Wickremesinghe is the one who repelled that law during his tenure as the Prime Minister. He took measures to present a right to Information bill too. But it did not materialize because Parliament was dissolved. I appreciate his past efforts even though they are in sharp contrast with the remarks and statements he makes today.

 

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    So you have all the explanations.
    What have you then to say about the Batalanda allegations of murder? Why was there not a word from the UNP? Why is Mangala now supporting Ranil who he claimed was in charge of the Batalanda House of Torture.

    • 0
      0

      Oh chettear, what is Batalanda man?? I dont know about, please tell me Paris Underground singer!

  • 0
    0

    Wow wow, is this that Upali?? ;) ;) ;)

  • 0
    0

    And they come to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 0
    0

    Same thing will happen to Gamini Sumanasekara :) Malinda Senavirathne, :) Rajpal Abenayake,:) Samindra Fredinandos, :) Victor Ivan, :) Prabath Sahabandu, :) Sri Ranasinghe, :) Ariyananda Dombagahawatta, :) Champika Liyanarachchi. :) PUKA DEEME SEEMAVAK THIYAGANNA , same thing will happen. :) :) :) ;) ;)m :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

    • 0
      0

      Shamindra actually isn’t as bad as rajpal , he is consistent.

      • 0
        0

        Rajpal got angry with Ranga Jayasuriya last week when he asked, “so are you on the govt delegation” He is gone for two weeks on govt expense , u know where?? Geneva. LOL

    • 0
      0

      Apart from Malinda, anik okkoma matath puka dunna. :) :) :) :) Ingirisiyen keevoth lokema dana ganiy.

      • 0
        0

        I only killed Rohana KUmara, we were not like bloody Rajapaksas, besides I had lot of media work with CBK .

  • 0
    0

    Exactly Nakka, Upali gave his ass to brothers, then they gave him a ass. a good lesson.

    • 0
      0

      U stupid ass holes .. If some person work for president, how come he get attacked that way? Who can do such a thing in SL apart from government..? I don’t know what kind of people you are but if this incident happen to you and your family , you’ll learn your lesson.. Hope Karma won’t hurt you for leaving such stupid comments without knowing anything about what happen…

  • 0
    0

    Puka denna raththaran!! dena tharamata api dennam puka aneeeeee :))) :) :) :)

  • 0
    0

    Puka dunnahama plaster dagena wena kathwak mama ahala nehe. Aliyekta puka dela neda? puka deelada gutti kalada?

  • 0
    0

    I jut don’t have the time to go through about your story about wikileeek.I assume that you trust wikileeks.So any chance that Juilan Aange will be released!Forget about Mahinda!You quote WIkileechs,so why don’t you try to get him realised?

  • 0
    0

    No one should get exited about CT .Colombo and Telegraph,they are just money making schemes.Let’s hang Rajapakse for killing that sun god Prabakaran.To hell with princess Diana!How about JFK?You ask BOB!I mean that Rober Blake!Nice guy!But an A…le!

  • 0
    0

    LET”S ALL GET JULIAN ASSANGE RELEASED! II am very confident that our black boy OBAMA will be with us.Forget about that frustrated Hillariy.She is jealous of Monica!Bill is a nice guy.Cigar man!WE support Bill Clinton
    To hell with that old bag Hillary,Monica Lewenskiy is tops!

  • 0
    0

    Sounds like USA are governing Sri Lanka! We seem to be answerable America even on Bedroom Affairs in this country!

  • 0
    0

    Why do you laughing at Upali? It must help as a true Sinhalese at the time of war. It’s just!!! The concern should goes in other way. Don’t you think how rude the big boss of brother is? He think only about his existence. Will do any thing for that. Is this our king and US men knows what is the truth is. They are not watching ITN :D

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