No cause for the media to fear govt. – President
President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the heads of media institutions yesterday, in the wake of the assassination of The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge last Thursday, urged the media not to harbour any fear of his government but to conduct themselves responsibly and professionally, according to a statement issued by the Presidential Secretariat.
The statement read: "President Mahinda Rajapaksa urged media institutions to act with the greatest responsibility in reporting events at a time when there is considerable public attention drawn to the attack on the MTV/Sirasa TV station and the killing of the Editor of The Sunday Leader Mr. Lasantha Wickremetunga, as well as the success of the security forces in the fight to eradicate terrorism, when he met the heads of private and state media institutions at Temple Trees this evening (14).
The President said he invited the media heads to discuss the current situation especially in view of the reports he had received of the irresponsible nature of the reporting into the recent attack on MTV/Sirasa and the killing of Mr. Wickremetunga.
He said that while politicians were free to make any statements about matters of public interest, the media had to ensure that they were not reported in a manner that would divert the inquiries that were being conducted into other directions, and not give the police a chance to carry out proper investigations.
He regretted that some media institutions had mentioned the name of a certain officer of the Intelligence Services in the current context, which had resulted in threats to this officer, and said the media should be concerned about such consequences of their reports. He recalled how almost the entirety of the Military Intelligence Corps of the country had been killed after a media report had revealed their names in a most irresponsible manner.
One arrest had already been made with regard to the MTV /Sirisa attack, and it was most likely that others would follow soon. Contrary to some media reports the Government Analyst had still not submitted the report on this attack.
When asked about the government position on threats to journalists, President Rajapaksa said he would give the assurance that no journalist or media institution had cause to fear any threats or attacks by the Government.
The President said that at a time when the government was at the very height of its popularity due to the success of the offensive against terrorism, it had no interest in losing this public acceptance by even an iota, by attacks on the media as had taken place. The Government had no interest whatever in seeking disgrace through any attacks on the media, he said. He assured the media heads that the culprits would be captured and brought to justice.
When asked what the policy of the Government was with regard to the Tamil people, President Rajapaksa said the Government was not against the Tamil people. "We want peace. We are not against the Tamil people. We are against terrorists. "You [the media] have all the freedom and the right to support the Tamil people, and any parties or organizations of the Tamils, but please do not support terrorists", the President urged.
He said it was necessary to prevent communalism whether it came from Tamils, Sinhalese or Muslims, as it was always harmful to the unity of the country. We must understand that this country belongs to he Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims and all communities, who have equal rights as citizens of this country, and we will work to safeguard these rights. The media should be responsible in not fanning communalism from whatever source it came, the President said."