• Monday, Sep 26, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

NYT lambasts intimidation against Sri Lanka reporters

  • Published at 12:14 pm July 3rd, 2018
Mahinda Rajapakse- SRI LANKA-POLITICS-CONFLICT-ANNIVERSARY
Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse gestures as he takes part in a ceremony in Colombo on May 19, 2018, held to mark the 9th anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist war AFP

Sri Lanka is ranked 131 of 180 nations on Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index

The New York Times sounded alarm on Tuesday over an "intimidation campaign" being waged against two Sri Lankan reporters who assisted the newspaper's investigation into alleged corruption involving former president Mahinda Rajapakse.

The pair have been subjected to intense personal abuse on social media and public criticism by parliamentarians loyal to Rajapakse since the report was published late last month.

"It is unacceptable for journalists to be intimidated this way. This action appears intended to silence critics and curb press freedoms, and ultimately deprive Sri Lankans of information in the public interest," the New York Times said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The Times expects the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure the safety of journalists working for our - or any - news organization."

Rajapakse's son Namal, a local legislator, said "at no time" did he or his father intimidate the journalists.

"Just like the press has a right to criticise politicians, don't we also have the right to 'publicly criticise' reporting we believe to be faulty?" he posted on Twitter.

The NYT investigation alleges Rajapakse's campaign received millions of dollars for his failed election bid from a Chinese state-owned company which built a controversial port on the island.

Rajapakse's regime was accused of taking huge loans for the port at massive interest rates under his tenure.

He lost the election in 2015, but Sri Lanka's new government was unable to pay the debt and agreed last year to give China a 70% stake in the strategic port in the Indian Ocean for 99 years.

In a statement at the weekend Rajapakse - a former strongman making a political comeback in Sri Lanka - denied receiving campaign funding from the Chinese and accused the New York Times of a smear campaign against him.

The Times report says Rajapakse and his aides did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Chinese embassy in Colombo also denied the report and said it was "full of political prejudice and completely inconsistent with the fact."

There has been no official comment from the Sri Lankan government.

The Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka said it was "deeply concerned" about allegations of intimidation and urged the government to protect all journalists, local or foreign.

"We are disturbed that several members of parliament have publicly vilified the authors of the report without utilising established channels to redress any grievances arising from the impugned report," the association said Tuesday.

The revelations have dominated headlines in Sri Lanka and enraged Rajapakse supporters, who have accused the duo of pro-government bias and acting in the interest of foreigners.

Rajapakse and several members of his family are currently under investigation for large-scale financial fraud and murder. All deny any wrongdoing and in turn accuse the new government of a political vendetta.

Rajapakse was defeated in 2015 by President Maithripala Sirisena after a decade of iron-fisted rule in which he oversaw the bloody end to Sri Lanka's civil war and quashed dissidents and curbed media freedoms.

Seventeen journalists and media employees were murdered during his time in office.

Sirisena was elected promising to restore press freedom and democratic norms.

Sri Lanka is ranked 131 of 180 nations on Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index, an improvement of 10 places from the year before. 

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail