TRCSL member defends move, journalists call for restoration

Denial of access to www.lankaenews.com



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By Shamindra Ferdinando


President’s Counsel Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, in his capacity as a member of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) yesterday strongly defended the state agency’s decision to block trilingual www.lankaenews.com.


Warnakulasuriya emphasised the responsibility on the part of the government to counter propaganda campaigns undertaken by a section of the media. The attorney-at-law asserted that there couldn’t be any dispute over their right to intervene in what he called illegal operations.


Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Rome said so when Faraz Shauketaly raised the issue on News Line on TV 1.


Warnakulasuriya said that the media


couldn’t be allowed to propagate lies at the expense of the government, political parties as well as individuals.


Pointing out that 14 petitions had been filed against Sandaruwan Senadeera managing the controversial portal, Warnakulasuriya revealed that he would be filing three more petitions soon.


Warnakulasuriya explained how certain politicians had used the web site to target their rivals.


Warnakulasuriya defended the TRC’s move amidst a simmering dispute between the yahapalana government and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) over the blocking of the web site.


Ravaya Deputy Editor and SLWJA President Lasantha Ruhunage yesterday told The Island that having repeatedly promised unfettered media freedom in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary polls in 2015, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was hell-bent on imposing restrictions on the media.


Ruhunage challenged the government to respond to issues raised by the web site without seeking to suppress the media through various means.


Comparing measures that had been adopted by the previous Rajapaksa administration and the yahapalana government, Ruhunage said that Senadeera’s outfit was repeatedly targeted by the former regime, finally leading to the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda in January 2010.


SLWJA President alleged that in spite of promises to the media, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government had interfered with the media on numerous occasions. Ruhunage said that they never expected the current government to pursue the Rajapaksa style policies vis-a-vis the media.


Warnakulasuriya alleged Senadeera’s outfit had been engaged in a vicious campaign against selected politicians and other persons and, therefore, the authorities could not look the other way.


Responding to a query, Ruhunage said Lanka-e-news coverage of the termination of navy chief Vice Admiral Travis Sinniah’s services amidst controversy over proposed acquisition of warship from Russia may have led to the government move.


Meanwhile, Free Media Movement (FMM) Secretary Dileesha Abesundara, too, urged the government not to suppress the media. The FMM has requested the government and the relevant agency to explain their stand on Lanka-e-news.


Warnakulasuriya alleged Sandaruwan of propagating lies from overseas. He is believed to be either in Europe or Canada.


Ruhunage said that the government should utilise all available avenues to prove Lanka-e-news wrong if that was the cause. Depriving the public of the access to a particular media outfit was certainly not a solution, Ruhunage said.


Attorney-at-law Upul Kumarapperuma has, on behalf of Sandaruwan, sought an explanation from Acting Director General of the Government Information Department attorney-at-law Sudarshana Gunawardena, as regards the TRCSL move.


Kumarapperuma has asked Gunawardena whether the TRCSL acted on a judicial order or instructions received from some other institution or an individual. The lawyer has also sought clarification why such a decision was taken and the relevant law.


Kumarapperuma has reminded Gunawardena the circumstances under which he fled Sri Lanka close on the heels of the disappearance of Ekneligoda and the setting fire to www.lankaenews.com main office.


Confirming that he had received Kumarapparemua’s letter, Gunawardena said that he would consult his lawyers.


Kumarapperuma has pointed out to Gunawardena that the TRCSL has acted in the wake of Sandaruwan attacking the government over Russia warship deal.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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