15 October, 2018

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WikiLeaks: Rajapaksa, In A Harsh Tone,Told Daniels That MTV Would Face Consequences

By Colombo Telegraph

“After the meeting, according to Daniels, the Director of Information asked him if he would like a private moment with the president to congratulate him on the victory. Daniels then met the president, who was standing with two other assistants. Rajapaksa, in a harsh tone, told Daniels that he knew that MTV was against him and that they would face consequences. The two assistants cited a number of “violations” to illustrate his point.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

Daniels said MTV would not stand down

A Leaked “CONFIDENTIAL” US diplomatic cable, dated February 2, 2010, updated the Secretary of State on Sri Lanka’s media suppression situation shows the way President Mahinda Rajapaksa harassed opposition media outlets.  The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The cable was written by the Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis.

Under the subheading “MTV WARNED NOT TO CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT” ambassador Butenis wrote “Since the presidential election on January 26, the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) has intensified actions against media outlets that it perceived gave the government unfavorable coverage during the campaign. Sirisa Media Network (MTV), the largest private electronic media (television and radio) in the country, has been under increased GSL pressure. On January 28, Channel Director (CEO equivalent) Chevaan Daniels told PAO that he had received a call that morning from the Director of Information, telling Daniels that MTV should pay attention not to air stories critical of the government for at least one month. Later that day, Daniels and other media executives were summoned to Temple Trees, the official residence of the president, for a meeting with the newly reelected Rajapaksa. At the meeting, the president told media executives that he knew that some people in the room were for him during the campaign and some were critical. Rather than adopt a conciliatory tone, Daniels said the president warned the executives that action would be taken against media outlets that tried to disrupt racial harmony or support terrorism — code words for disloyalty to the Rajapaksa regime.”

Under the subheading “GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO PULL MTV LICENSE” Butenis wrote “On January 30, MTV received a letter from W. B. Ganegala, Secretary in the Ministry of Mass Media and Information. The letter opened: ‘It has been observed that your Radio and Television Networks have been broadcasting news and other programs at times in a provocative and inciting manner which will have a serious impact on the normal public and social order.’ The letter claimed that MTV ‘gave undue publicity to false statements made by a defeated Presidential Candidate and some other persons who supported him.’ The letter closed by urging MTV to be more ‘responsible whenever you broadcast sensitive information which has direct impact on Children’s Rights, National Security, Sri Lankan Identity, Communal Harmony and (the) Good image of the country at large… Unless you adopt a more responsible approach toward your broadcasts, we will be compelled to take appropriate action in terms of the provisions of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Act No. 37 of 1967, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Act No. 6 of 1982 and other relevant laws of the country.’ Other language in the letter implied that the company’s broadcasting license was at risk of cancellation.”

“PAO met with Daniels on February 1 to discuss the letter. Daniels said MTV would not stand down, despite the letter, and would continue to broadcast news it deemed relevant for Sri Lankans to know. Daniels said MTV would respond with a letter that would outline 22 instances during the campaign when MTV gave essentially free air time to the president, along with notes of praise received from GSL officials on MTV’s election coverage. Further, MTV would advocate that the 4.5 million Sri Lankans who voted for General Fonseka had a right to know what their candidate was now saying. If the tables were turned and the president had lost, MTV would also cover Rajapaksa’s statements. Daniels also outlined a number of threats against him and other employees. Daniels said that on January 30, he received a call from a man speaking in Sinhala who said that he and his family would be burned with acid (a relatively common attack technique in Sri Lanka). Daniels is changing homes and modes of transportation on a near-daily basis.” Butenis further wrote.

The cable also discussed the harassments against other media outlets, Lanka E News, Siyatha, Lanka news paper and the Sunday Leader.

Placing a comment the ambassador wrote “This renewed encroachment on media freedom is another example of the government’s clampdown on opposition voices and assertion of control over the message. The Ambassador continues to engage high-level GSL officials, including most recently Foreign Minister Bogollagama (reftel) and Minister of Justice Malinda Moragoda, raising concerns about media freedom and the treatment of Fonseka. Other Post officers also are engaged with the issues and remain in close contact with opposition figures and embattled journalists. Other missions are actively engaged as well, and we understand the EU heads of mission will be meeting FM Bogollagama Thursday to deliver a message similar to the Ambassador’s in the context of the GSP-plus trade preference.”

Related Posts ;

WikiLeaks:Rajapaksa Managed To Influenced MTV Owner Maharaja

Read the cable below for further details;

VZCZCXRO4172
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHLM #0082/01 0331337
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 021337Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1242
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2369
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 9391
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7646
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5424
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3806
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 0010
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0210
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0164
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4473
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9952
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 7199
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0205
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0092
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 000082 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2020
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: POST ELECTION: NEW THREATS TO MEDIA FREEDOM 

REF: COLOMBO 76 

COLOMBO 00000082  001.2 OF 004 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS.  REASONS: 1.4 (B, D) 

1. (C) SUMMARY:  Sri Lanka's presidential election has
brought a new wave of official and unofficial pressure on
media outlets and attacks against journalists.  MTV (Sirisa),
a popular private television and radio conglomerate, has
received official warning that it must cease airing
anti-government stories or face the revocation of its
broadcast licenses.  Online journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda
vanished (and was feared kidnapped) shortly before the
election; his welfare and whereabouts remain unknown.  The
government also shut down the JVP newspaper, Lanka, after it
had published anti-government material during the campaign.
A general climate of fear has reemerged among Sri Lankan
journalists.  END SUMMARY. 

MTV WARNED NOT TO
CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT
-------------------- 

2. (C) Since the presidential election on January 26, the
Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) has intensified actions against
media outlets that it perceived gave the government
unfavorable coverage during the campaign.  Sirisa Media
Network (MTV), the largest private electronic media
(television and radio) in the country, has been under
increased GSL pressure.  On January 28, Channel Director (CEO
equivalent) Chevaan Daniels told PAO that he had received a
call that morning from the Director of Information, telling
Daniels that MTV should pay attention not to air stories
critical of the government for at least one month. 

3. (C) Later that day, Daniels and other media executives
were summoned to Temple Trees, the official residence of the
president, for a meeting with the newly reelected Rajapaksa.
At the meeting, the president told media executives that he
knew that some people in the room were for him during the
campaign and some were critical.  Rather than adopt a
conciliatory tone, Daniels said the president warned the
executives that action would be taken against media outlets
that tried to disrupt racial harmony or support terrorism --
code words for disloyalty to the Rajapaksa regime. 

4. (C) After the meeting, according to Daniels, the Director
of Information asked him if he would like a private moment
with the president to congratulate him on the victory.
Daniels then met the president, who was standing with two
other assistants.  Rajapaksa, in a harsh tone, told Daniels
that he knew that MTV was against him and that they would
face consequences.  The two assistants cited a number of
"violations" to illustrate his point. 

GOVERNMENT THREATENS
TO PULL MTV LICENSE
-------------------- 

5. (C) On January 30, MTV received a letter from W. B.
Ganegala, Secretary in the Ministry of Mass Media and
Information.  The letter opened:  "It has been observed that
your Radio and Television Networks have been broadcasting
news and other programs at times in a provocative and
inciting manner which will have a serious impact on the
normal public and social order."  The letter claimed that MTV
"gave undue publicity to false statements made by a defeated
Presidential Candidate and some other persons who supported
him."  The letter closed by urging MTV to be more
"responsible whenever you broadcast sensitive information
which has direct impact on Children's Rights, National
Security, Sri Lankan Identity, Communal Harmony and (the) 

COLOMBO 00000082  002.2 OF 004 

Good image of the country at large...  Unless you adopt a
more responsible approach toward your broadcasts, we will be
compelled to take appropriate action in terms of the
provisions of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Act No.
37 of 1967, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Act No. 6 of
1982 and other relevant laws of the country."  Other language
in the letter implied that the company's broadcasting license
was at risk of cancellation. 

6. (C) PAO met with Daniels on February 1 to discuss the
letter.  Daniels said MTV would not stand down, despite the
letter, and would continue to broadcast news it deemed
relevant for Sri Lankans to know.  Daniels said MTV would
respond with a letter that would outline 22 instances during
the campaign when MTV gave essentially free air time to the
president, along with notes of praise received from GSL
officials on MTV's election coverage.  Further, MTV would
advocate that the 4.5 million Sri Lankans who voted for
General Fonseka had a right to know what their candidate was
now saying.  If the tables were turned and the president had
lost, MTV would also cover Rajapaksa's statements. 

7. (C) Daniels also outlined a number of threats against him
and other employees.  Daniels said that on January 30, he
received a call from a man speaking in Sinhala who said that
he and his family would be burned with acid (a relatively
common attack technique in Sri Lanka).  Daniels is changing
homes and modes of transportation on a near-daily basis. 

LANKA-E-NEWS JOURNALIST
REMAINS MISSING
----------------------- 

8. (C) MTV is just one of many examples of what appears to be
the government's campaign to silence critical media.
Lanka-e-News, an online news site with a heavy UNP-slant, saw
the disappearance and presumed kidnapping of Prageeth
Eknaligoda, a contributing journalist.  On January 25,
Eknaligoda's wife reported to police that her husband was
missing.  On January 25, Ambassador Butenis contacted the
Foreign Secretary to register U.S. concerns over the
disappearance.  MFA Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe
responded that the government would order a thorough
investigation. 

9. (C) Despite the pledge by the foreign secretary, there has
been no progress on finding Eknaligoda.  On January 29, PAO
met with the wife and two teenage sons of the missing
journalist as well as Lanka-e-News editor Sansaruwan
Senedeera.  The editor detailed suspicious white vans that
had been spotted outside the website's offices prior to the
attack, as well as death threats that employees continued to
receive.  He also noted that "paramilitaries" surrounded the
premises on the evening of January 28 and placed a padlock on
the gate.  Eknaligoda's wife also said she feared for her
safety.  Two organizations present at the meeting pledged to
augment physical security at the paper, provide a safe house
for the editor, and give limited financial support to the
family.  PAO promised that Embassy would continue to raise
the issue with GSL officials.  On February 1, PolOff met
Eknaligoda's family and colleagues, though they had no new
updates on his situation.  Senedeera, however, told PolOff
that they had been questioned by the Criminal Investigation
Unit (CID) over the past year and that on January 29, the
website offices received 40 threatening phone calls in 45
minutes. 

PRO-JVP LANKAN
SEALED BY POLICE
---------------- 

COLOMBO 00000082  003.2 OF 004 

10. (C) Another media outlet under official pressure since
the election is the "Lankan" newspaper.  An unofficial
mouthpiece of the opposition party JVP, the paper published
numerous stories critical of the government during the recent
presidential election.  One story alleged that the Los
Angeles house of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, defense secretary and
brother of the president, was paid for by the GSL.  On
January 29, three days after the election, the paper's
editor, Chandan Sirimalwatte, was questioned and detained by
CID.  The paper's offices were also sealed as CID deemed the
paper to be a threat to national security.  On February 1,
however, a court overruled CID's action and ordered that the
offices be opened. 

SUNDAY LEADER
RECEIVES THREATS
---------------- 

11. (C) On January 29, PAO met with Lal Wickrematunge, owner
of the Sunday Leader, the English-language weekly whose
editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was murdered in January 2009.
Lal expressed continued concern for the safety of his staff.
Several of his senior employees were currently in safe houses
and one editor from the Leader's Sinhala-language paper had
tendered his resignation.  Employees of the paper continued
to receive threats.  Lal and his editorial team have decided
to limit coverage of controversial topics over the next few
weeks, fearing for the safety of the staff. 

STATE MEDIA PERSONNEL
NOT SPARED RETRIBUTION
---------------------- 

12. (C) Even state media, which unabashedly gave its full
support to the president during the campaign, has not been
immune from the post-election media clampdown.  During the
past several days, several employees have been sacked at
state-owned Rupavahini, one of only two television networks
to reach all parts of the island (both are state-owned).
According to contacts, 12 employees who were believed to be
supporters of General Fonseka so far had been terminated. 

13. (C) Adding to the rash of media dismissals, Priyantha
Kariyapperuma, Director General of the Telecommunication
Regulatory Commission (TRC), submitted his resignation on
February 2.  Priyantha and his brother Roshantha had been
major supporters of President Rajapaksa's 2005 campaign.
Roshantha is also the owner of Siritha Television and Radio,
Real Radio, and Vettri Radio.  According to media contacts,
the president recently learned that the two brothers had met
with General Fonseka and were believed to be financially
supporting Fonseka's campaign.  During election night in
Colombo, Siritha Television and MTV were the two local
television stations that were surrounded by military. 

COMMENT
------- 

14. (C) This renewed encroachment on media freedom is another
example of the government's clampdown on opposition voices
and assertion of control over the message.  The Ambassador
continues to engage high-level GSL officials, including most
recently Foreign Minister Bogollagama (reftel) and Minister
of Justice Malinda Moragoda, raising concerns about media
freedom and the treatment of Fonseka.  Other Post officers
also are engaged with the issues and remain in close contact
with opposition figures and embattled journalists.  Other
missions are actively engaged as well, and we understand the
EU heads of mission will be meeting FM Bogollagama Thursday
to deliver a message similar to the Ambassador's in the
context of the GSP-plus trade preference. 

COLOMBO 00000082  004.2 OF 004 

BUTENIS
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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Enough is enough! Rajapassa must go! MTV and Maharaja should seek help from India, present its case to the international community and stand up for its rights and not be wagged by the rajapassa dog!
    Meanwhile a boycott of Rupavahini ITN and the state electronic media is on!

    • 0
      0

      Mr.Don,
      This was two and a half years ago. Now Maharaja is with Rajapakses and attacking Ranil relenlessly. What to do napurukalata!

  • 0
    0

    MTV airs road accident as “breaking news” and make a big fuss about it, when it comes issues of serious concern to the public and the organization itself, MTV is silent..Maybe Rajapakse pressure worked.

  • 0
    2

    1. what is wrong with this statement ” The letter closed by urging MTV to be more ‘responsible whenever you broadcast sensitive information which has direct impact on Children’s Rights, National Security, Sri Lankan Identity, Communal Harmony and (the) Good image of the country at large… Unless you adopt a more responsible approach toward your broadcasts”

    2. ” he and his family would be burned with acid (a relatively common attack technique in Sri Lanka).” I think who ever made this statemet is talking about India or Pakistan. Acid attack is not a common technique in SriLanka. As a matter of fact it is very uncommon in Sri Lanka compare to India or Pakistan.

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