Observer Editor's sacking politically motivated, say Media Groups

[TamilNet, Sunday, 15 October 2006, 11:48 GMT]
Five main journalists associations in Sri Lanka condemned the sacking of Rajpal Abeynayake from the Editorship of Sri Lanka's weekly broadsheet, Observer, and said the politically motivated act portends danger to Press Freedom in Sri Lanka, in a press release issued Saturday. Mr Abeynayake wrote a column critical of the Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapakse's speech to Sri Lankan diplomats in Colombo, in the Observer's 8th October edition.

Full text of the release jointly signed by Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU), Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF), Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Alliance (SLTJA), and Free Media Movement (FMM), follows:

Removal of Sunday Observer Editor

We, five main journalists organizations working together for freedom for expression, professionalism in journalism and professional solidarity register our concern over the sudden removal of The Sunday Observer editor Rajpal Abenayaka, without giving any valid reasons or due process. The Sunday Observer is the English language weekly of ANCL, which should have being a public services media institution but presently under the political control of the state.

We condemn this act which seems to be a political decision.

Mr. Rajpal Abenayaka has been asked by the management of ANCL to hand over a resignation letter on 10th Oct, citing his column published on 8th Oct. The column in question was slightly critical of the presidents speech to Sri Lankan diplomats week before. Although he did not tender his resignation, a new editor was appointed to The Sunday Observer on the same day.This is a clear interference of editorial independence, which is an indispensable to press freedom. Level of this interference in state media can be seen from the fact that, Dinamina, the Sinhala language daily of ANCL has had 14 editors in last 12 years. This tradition of appointing and removing editors at the whims and fancies of politicians imposes a regime of indirect censorship in state (public) media.

If a government does not tolerate even a slight criticism as such, state( public) media will not be able to play the watch dog role at all.

Although the state ( public) media should have been given the independence to function as public services media all governments so far has used them to promote their party and individual political agendas. There has been no transparent and accountable policy on appointing or removing editors and heads in state( public) media.

Sudden removal of Mr. Rajpal Abenayaka from the editorship of The Sunday Observer re-emphasis the need of transforming political controlled state media in to truly public media, with professional integrity and respect.

For more information: Sunanda Deshapriya, + 94 777 312457

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