“The government’s Daily News has become at this point little more a Rajapaksa daily campaign brochure. We believe that it is now fulfilling the same function as the old Soviet Pravda: aimed not so much at persuading a general audience, the paper primarily serves as a guide to the latest official campaign position for party and state functionaries.” the US Embassy in Colombo wrote to Washington.
This remark on State run media came after US Ambassador’s meeting with the Elections Commissioner Dyananda Dissanayake no December 18, 2009. The remarks by Washington’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, are revealed by the Wikileaks leaked cable. The Colombo Telegraph found the cable classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” by ambassador Patrica A. Butenis.
Under the Subheading “WHAT CAN THE EC DO TO ENFORCE EVEN-HANDEDNESS IN THE MEDIA? “ the Ambassador wrote, “not very much, the EC has allotted 45 minutes of air-time for each candidate on state television. The EC also has the authority to appoint a ‘competent authority’ to take over management of state electronic media. The EC explained that if he were to receive a complaint, he would issue a warning to the offending party.”
“He would not mention whether he had yet received a formal complaint, through the opposition already has been making loud public complaints. If the warning were not heeded, he would then appoint a competent authority, who would take over the day-to-day management of the state radio or television outlet. The legislation did not provide, however, for a competent authority to oversee state newspapers.” the Ambassador Butenis further wrote.
In paragraph 6 the Ambassador wrote “Given the short campaign season, it may not be until the very end of the campaign that the EC would get around appointing a competent authority – a model that was followed in a previous provincial elections, when the EC appointed a competent authority two days before voting. Beyond appointing the competent authority, the EC has very little other power, and thus we expect the state media to continue to be used as an outlet for the president’s campaign. As for private media, the EC has nor authority over it. The Rajapaksas or their allies own many of private media outlets and are crowding out opposition, which also lacks the Rajapaksa’ financial resources.”
Below we publish the relevant part of the cable;
VZCZCXRO2809 OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR DE RUEHLM #1177/01 3561250 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 221250Z DEC 09 FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1046 INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2219 RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 9241 RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7491 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5340 RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3646 RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 5265 RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0126 RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0800 RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4387 RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9801 RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 7092 RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0121 RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3958 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 001177 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2019 TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE SUBJECT: SRI LANKAN ELECTIONS COMMISSIONER: FAQS FOR AND ABOUT COLOMBO 00001177 001.2 OF 004 Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D) ¶1. (C) SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION: The following provides Post assessment of key issues related to the Sri Lankan Elections Commissioner and the upcoming presidential election scheduled for January 26. The message is organized in frequently-asked-question (FAQ) format and draws on Ambassador's December 18 meeting with the Commissioner and Post research. END SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION. WHAT CAN THE EC DO TO ENFORCE EVEN-HANDEDNESS IN THE MEDIA? --------------------------------------------- -------------- ¶5. (C) Not very much. The EC has allotted 45 minutes of air-time for each candidate on state television (candidates can use the 45 minutes all at once or in 15-minute increments). The EC also has the authority to appoint a "competent authority" to take over management of state electronic media. The EC explained that if he were to receive a complaint, he would issue a warning to the offending party. (He did not mention whether he had yet COLOMBO 00001177 002.2 OF 004 received a formal complaint, though the opposition already has been making loud public complaints.) If the warning were not heeded, he would then appoint a competent authority, who would take over the day-to-day management of the state radio or television outlet. The legislation did not provide, however, for a competent authority to oversee state newspapers. (NOTE: The government's Daily News has become at this point little more than a Rajapaksa daily campaign brochure. We believe that it is now fulfilling the same function as the old Soviet Pravda: aimed not so much at persuading a general audience, the paper primarily serves as a guide to the latest official campaign positions for party and state functionaries. END NOTE.)
Pingback: Wikileaks Newslinks 12 November 2011 « William Bowles.info / November 12, 2011
LW / November 12, 2011
we knew it long before the good ambassador. i mean were these yanks sleeping for last 40 yrs ? and Fox TV ahem….
B.Fernando / November 12, 2011
If you have absolutely nothing to do, and wishes to entertain your self to reading fairy tales which are full of lies, nothing but lies published by the corrupt family dictatorship of Sri Lanka, please read this paper.
DG US / November 12, 2011
We do not need the CIA, FBI and the US embassy to tell us about Daily News. US diplomats need to focus on helping their country to get out of bankruptcy and create bloody jobs…US embassy ignored and covered up the use of chemical bombs and phosphorous bombs by the Singhales on the Tamils…
Cynthia / November 12, 2011
In addition , with the Rupavahini TV and ITN news , we have an overdose of news
about the antics of the regime . It is this news that exposes them for what they are and
the reason for their hiding behind the ban on other sources of information.
There is no point insulting the CIA , FBI, etc. We brought this on ourselves.
Gunasekera / November 13, 2011
This is not a surprise. Things have gone from bad to worse under the paranoid regime of today. It views everyone in an “us vs. them” mentality. The papers are full of sycophantic journalists who sing the leader’s praises, covers up crimes such as the murder of Duminda Silva and basically caters to the vanity and insecurity of the leadership. The leadership appears to be suffering from a chronic does of inferiority complexes. Trying their best to build themselves akin to Gaddaffi, Kim Jong Il and others. Not even in India do we find such pathetic subservience.
thambi / November 14, 2011
Please note that this is the so called free media that all of you western pupets talk about. If I have a paper i’ll write what i want and this what happening in BBC, CNN & other western media. Have they ever talk about things happen in Iraq or Afganistan?
Gunasekera / November 13, 2011
Correction the murder of Premachandra by the cronies of Duminda and Duminda himself. Not even a statement was recorded of Duminda’s. He was visited by the President. Why?
thambi / November 14, 2011
Why Can’t President visit Duminda? Why what happen to your Western HR rights? Till the courts decide no one is guilty.
You talk about Gaddafi & Kim Jong II what about Obama when he talks all of western media provide live broadcasting to whole world why? Because they have been instructed to do so by white house. If not they will not be allowed to work in US.
Now you will think Pravda is better than US system because it reflect one news paper’s ideas not the whole bunch. US are very famous to talk about other peoples mistakes but don’t see how dirty their hands are.
Nobel peace price was given Obama for what? Because the Norwegians wants to scratch the balls of new master. In hypothetically President Rajapaksa was the best person to given Nobel Peace price as he brings the peace to Sri Lanka after three decades.
Now please don’t paste me with label of President Supporter as I don’t live Sri Lanka or have any kind of connection to Sri Lankan politics but talk the truth.
Pingback: Bookmarks for November 13th from 04:21 to 05:44 « Mark's life / November 13, 2011
Pingback: This Week in the Press: 10 – 16 November, 2011 / November 23, 2011