Thank You Sunday Leader
By J. C Weliamuna – Attorney – at – law
It is with great pleasure I, as a regular reader, congratulates Sunday Leader on its 18th birthday. Not many newspapers in Sri Lanka had courage and composure to face external threats for such a long period. It played a pivotal role in exposing human rights violations and corruption at highest level in the country. It was burnt and its founder editor was murdered with impunity and thus far no credible investigations were conducted into those incidents. We have seen many such media stations burnt down, a dozen of journalist abducted or killed and several others were forced to live in exile. Independent journalists and media institutional are vilified, mostly by government and its coterie of sponsored journalists. The journey of Sunday Leader has to be understood in that backdrop. When Lasantha was shot, hundreds of concerned citizens gathered in Kalubowila Hospital, wishing him recovery. When he died, his residence and Borella Cemetery were filled with thousands of people, urging culprits to be brought to justice. We are passing a dark era of our country, which will be remembered for its white vans and unsolved crimes committed with the blessings of the government. IN that context, the Sunday Leader has on its shoulders a burden which many other media organizations do not bear; that is to ensure accountability of the murder of its founder Editor. This challenging task put Sunday Leader at even higher risk. I have no doubt that the Frederica Jansz and her colleagues at the Sunday Leader will overcome those challenges, while maintaining high standards of journalism. In my view, obviously the readers do not have to agree with entire text of a newspaper and when a newspaper is diverse, part of the readership is always unhappy. When the newspapers face litigation or physical challenge, the readers will also form different opinions. At times, I had reservations on few articles and then it reminded me of Voltaire who said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. In the present context of the society, what we need is not “pure and simple professional” journalists but a groups of journalist who are professional as well as courageous. Unfortunately we have very few of those journalists today in Sri Lanka. However, we see many of this rare breed of journalists at Sunday Leader. It is important that newspapers such as Sunday Leader keep them together at any cost and maintain an environment to attract many others. Let me conclude this with an answer I had to give to someone who asked me why I continue to purchase Sunday Leader. I am sure many others in this country will have similar or variety of other reasons. I have four reasons; Firstly, there is very little space for courageous journalism and Sunday Leader has created space for itself. Secondly, the regime will do everything possible to “render powerless” the newspaper by resorting to lawful and unlawful means; thirdly I thought, it had a limited circulation and that will be hampered if the present readers stop buying it, which probably is the ultimate objective of many. Finally I though it is my duty to extend solidarity by buying and reading Sunday Leader, which represent the diverse views and opinions.
Thank you Sunday Leader!