International Condemnation On Gota
Following our article last week titled, “Gota Goes Berserk’, where we published excerpts of two telephone conversations Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had with Editor Frederica Jansz, where he used foul language, international media and media rights organizations were quick to respond.
This newspaper was flooded with articles, statements and expressions of solidarity some of which we reproduce today. The main opposition United National Party was also quick to condemn the verbal abuse unleashed by the Defense Secretary. Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya in a media release said, “…an official tasked to protect citizens including journalists says he does not “care about Courts” and warns an Editor that “people will kill” her. In no civilized, democratic countries are such abhorrent statements made.” (see box for full statement)
Mangala Samaraweera, MP and Co-ordinator, UNP Media Committee in a statement asserted, “Unbridled power, he thinks he could wield with vulgar threats, is definitely intolerably anti social. If still the President does not remove Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the post of Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, we don’t hesitate to say, it’s the right of the people to demand his removal from his office, immediately.” (see box for full statement)
- Press freedom in Sri Lanka
Jul 11th 2012, 7:19
By The Economist | COLOMBO
SRI LANKA’s powerful defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, seemed to threaten a senior newspaper editor with death in a profanity-strewn outburst. The cause for his rage was that she called to check whether the state-run national airline had changed aircraft for a scheduled flight from Switzerland. The cause for that switch may have been—or so the editor wished to learn—for Mr Rajapaksa’s niece’s pilot-boyfriend to be allowed to fly an aeroplane which was to deliver a puppy from Europe to the defence secretary’s wife.
Frederica Jansz, the editor of The Sunday Leader, reported that Mr Rajapaksa, who is the younger brother of Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, “went berserk” when she rang him. He said would “sue [her] fucking newspaper” if she wrote “any bloody word about this”. He also barked that he was “not afraid of the bloody courts”.
In a second telephone conversation, Mr Rajapaksa elaborated. He called Mrs Jansz “a fucking shit, a pig who eats shit”. “Shit, shit, shit journalists!” he ranted.
“Ninety percent of the people in this country hate you! They hate you! You come for a function where I am and I will tell people this is the editor of The Sunday Leader and 90% there will show that they hate you.”
“People will kill you! People hate you! They will kill you!” he shouted next. As it happens, Ms Jansz took over the newspaper after its founding editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was murdered in broad daylight in 2009.
The case remains unsolved. When she questioned whether she would be killed on his directive, the defence secretary seemed to prevaricate. “What? No. Not mine. But they will kill you, you dirty fucking shit journalist.” The conversation can be viewed in its charming entirety here. Media-rights groups have expressed strong concern over Ms Jansz’s safety.
(Picture Courtesy : AFP)
Sri Lankan Journalists Protest Against Media Suppression
- Death threats to editors, police raids on websites, abduction and intimidation of journalists: the protesters had many complaints
Helen Pidd in Delhi / guardian.co.uk, Thursday 12 July 2012 17.10 BST
Sri Lankan journalists, activists and opposition lawmakers have staged a protest against media suppression and intimidation after the editor of a newspaper received a death threat from the president’s brother.
Dozens of protesters gathered in the capital, Colombo, on Thursday. They denounced a recent police raid on websites critical of the government, as well as the alleged attempted abduction of a journalist, and secret police allegedly collecting journalists’ personal information.
One protester was Frederica Jansz, editor-in-chief of the Sunday Leader, whose slogan is “unbowed and unafraid”. Last week Jansz was warned by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s defence secretary and brother of the country’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, that “people will kill you” after she asked uncomfortable questions about his alleged abuse of power.
Jansz had called Gotabaya Rajapaksa for comments on allegations he had abused his family connections to try to get a puppy flown out to him from Zurich, resulting in 56 paying passengers being shunted off a scheduled flight.
Management of SriLankan Airlines allegedly downgraded the size of the plane that was scheduled to fly from Zurich on Friday 13 July so that one of Rajapaksa’s friends could fly the jet. The new pilot was to be captain Praveen Wijesinghe, who is dating flight officer Madini Chandradasa, the niece of the president. Wijesinghe was unqualified to fly the original jet.
Rajapaksa confirmed the puppy story when Jansz called, saying, “I have every right to bring not just a dog, but an elephant if I so wish”. But he threatened to sue Jansz if she reported it.
After Jansz made inquiries, SriLankan Airlines reversed the decision, so she called Rajapaksa to tell him she was spiking the story – not because he had threatened her, but because there would be no revenue loss for the state-owned airline.
Rajapaksa reportedly responded by yelling: “Your type of journalists are pigs who eat shit! Pigs who eat shit! Shit, shit, shit journalists! Ninety per cent of the people in this country hate you. They hate you.”
Again threatening Jansz with legal action, he continued: “I will put you in jail. You shit journalist trying to split this country – trying to show otherwise from true Sinhala Buddhists! You are helped by the US ambassador, NGOs and Paikiasothy [believed to be a reference to Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, a human rights activist and prominent critic of the Sri Lankan government] – they pay you!”
When Jansz said, “I hope you can hear yourself, Mr Rajapaksa”, he responded: “People will kill you. People hate you. They will kill you.”
Jansz asked whether he would order the killing. “What? No,” he said. “Not mine. But they will kill you – you dirty fucking shit journalist.”
Jansz told the Guardian that after 24 years as a journalist, she was in constant despair with the situation in Sri Lanka. “The Sri Lankan media has been browbeaten into submission – there is such fear psychosis around that the media practises self censorship,” she said.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not respond to the Guardian’s calls for comment. In 2007 he was condemned after threatening to “exterminate” a journalist on Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror newspaper (http://www.protectionline.org/Champika-Liyanaarachchi-Threats.html).
Reporters Without Borders, which defends press freedom around the world, condemned Rajapaksa’s behaviour. “We call on defence minister Rajapaksa to stop threatening journalists who are doing their job,” it said. “In many countries, a government official would have to resign for making such comments and would probably be subject to a criminal prosecution.”
PEN International, the charity supporting writers worldwide, reiterated its concern for the safety of journalists in Sri Lanka, many of whom it said are attacked and threatened, with apparent impunity, for their reporting. In a statement, PEN called for a “full investigation into the threats against Frederica Jansz and for immediate assurances of her safety”.
The Sunday Leader has not shied away from investigating the Rajapaksa brothers. It paid a heavy price for its crusade against the regime when its founding editor, Lasantha Wikramatunga, was assassinated in 2009.
Lasantha had a premonition about his death and had written an editorial a few days before his assassination in which he referred to President Rajapaksa. Jansz, who took over as editor after Lasantha’s murder, has also received threats to her life, but she has refused to be be silenced. Sunil Jayasekara, a media rights activist who protested on Thursday’s march, said the government had begun “a new round to intimidate journalists and suppress the independent media”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says Sri Lanka was the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in 2010. Amnesty International says at least 14 Sri Lankan media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006.
Sri Lankan Editor Needs Backup After Minister’s Tirade
By Bob Dietz
CPJ Asia Program Coordinator
As far as Frederica Jansz is concerned, “The Sri Lankan media have been completely cowed into submission by this regime with the exception of The Sunday Leader. It is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s biggest success story next to winning the war.”
Jansz is the Leader’s editor who, over the weekend, had the temerity to call up the president’s brother, Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and ask him “to clarify and find out if he was aware that the management at SriLankan Airlines had taken a decision to change a wide bodied A340 scheduled to fly to Zurich on Friday July 13, to a smaller A330. The change was to be made so that a SriLankan Airline pilot, who is dating a niece of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, could personally fly the aircraft that would carry a ‘puppy dog’ for Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Zurich,” to quote the Leader’s lead. The question apparently did not go down well with the defense secretary. Jansz reported his lengthy, abusive response fully in the Leader, and you can read it at “Gota Goes Berserk.” Beware: It’s a verbatim account filled with the obscenities Jansz says the minister heaped on her. (CPJ emailed and called the defense ministry seeking Rajapaksa’s side of the story; the email went unanswered. On the phone, after I identified myself to someone and asked to speak to the minister, that someone hung up. Subsequent calls went unanswered).
This is more than a juicy story of a government official behaving badly. It is a first-hand account of something that many Sri Lankan journalists speak of privately, but few make public out of fear of retribution. CPJ research shows that threats–some delivered over the phone, some by text, some by word of mouth, some by firebomb or claymore mine, others by gangs of thugs wielding pipes and clubs–are a fact of life for many Sri Lankan journalists.
CPJ first wrote about Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2007 (see “Government moves to re-enact criminal defamation law”). In May 2009, he ordered a Channel Four team deported back to Britain. “Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the second most powerful man in Sri Lanka, next to the president. He enjoys complete immunity coupled with the trappings of power equivalent to holding executive office,” Jansz told CPJ.
In January of this year, Sonali Samarasinghe, the widow of slain Leader editor Lasantha Wickramatunga, mentioned him in her statement marking the third anniversary of her husband’s death, “Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions have metastasized into something dangerous”–a headline which, for me, captures succinctly the state of Sri Lanka. Samarasinghe suggested Gotabaya Rajapaksa is part of the larger problem behind the “murders, abductions and assaults [that] are not random acts or accidental killings. These are acts of violence that have become emblematic of the current leadership, the erosion of society, and the impunity with which the regime now operates.”
In that statement, Samarasinghe called on the international community “to urge Sri Lanka’s government to hold a proper independent investigation into Lasantha’s murder.” CPJ has repeated that call many times in the cases of many other threats, attacks, arsons, and beatings directed at journalists and media organizations. After years of denials and legal obstruction, we have come not to expect action from the Sri Lankan government, but we try to get external peers–diplomats and the United Nations, mainly–to engage the government in a way that brings some sort of relief to the media community.
Jansz inherited the Leader’s editorial position after Wickramatunga was killed by eight men on four motorcycles during morning rush hour on a busy Colombo road a few hundred yards from a military checkpoint. Despite interminable hearings, no prosecution has ever been launched in the case. (CPJ’s 2009 investigation of that murder can be found at “Failure to Investigate.”) In her email communication with CPJ Monday, Jansz said “I fully expect some repercussion following yesterday’s publication, but in what form remains to be seen.”
CPJ is in touch with several diplomatic missions in Colombo. They should step into this situation before it gets worse.
‘Keep Frederica Jansz Safe’, ‘Embassies In Sri Lanka Should Raise Her Case’ – ARTICLE 19
ARTICLE 19 is very concerned for the safety of Sri Lankan journalist, Frederica Jansz, who has been threatened with death by the country’s defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The threat against journalist Frederica Jansz is the latest demonstration of the Sri Lankan government’s systematic attacks against independent and opposition-supporting journalists and media houses. They have showered scorn on journalists and shown a complete inability or unwillingness to prosecute perpetrators of violence toward and the killing of journalists,” said Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 executive director. “We urge the authorities to keep Frederica Jansz safe. We also urge embassies in Sri Lanka to raise her case with the government.” Frederica Jansz is the editor of Sri Lankan weekly newspaper, The Sunday Leader, and was conducting a phone interview with Rajapaksa, who is also the brother of the president.
According to The Sunday Leader, Rajapaksa told Jansz during the interview: “You pig that eats shit! You shit shit dirty fucking journalist! […] People will kill you! People hate you! They will kill you!” The Sunday Leader and its journalists face regular attack. The newspaper’s editor, Lasantha Wickramatunge, was assassinated on his way to work on 8 January 2009. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for the crime. Censorship and violence has recently increased against online sources of information and their authors. On 29 June, eight journalists and an assistant were arrested after the Sri Lankan police raided the offices of two news websites,srilankamirror.com and srilankaxnews.com.
Gotabaya Must Go
With such a person who continues to break all the rules of the establishment code with his arrogant, uncouth and psychotic behaviour giving leadership to the Ministry of Defence, it is not suprising that the law and order situation in the country has totally collapsed.
Over a month ago in June, we said in a statement released to the media, “This country, can not afford to allow such an inefficient, non administrative service person to handle a serious and important ministry as its Secretary, and allow the country to go chaotic and into anarchy. People of this country, what ever their political affiliations can not live with such unsolved crime, dictated by politically backed armed thugs under a Secretary, who is not even willing to accept he is a total failure as a State officer.
Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse has again proved us more than right. He has not only proved he is “inefficient”, he has also proved he is wholly uncultured and uncivilised too, to hold even the most menial of all public posts. His verbal purging thrown on journalist cum editor of the Sunday Leader, Ms. Fredrica Jansz, should have immediately grounded the entire print and electronic media into a loud halt in any other country. Most unfortunately it is not that here. Even those men and women who talk about internet obscenity and want websites banned for polluting a great ‘Sinhala culture’, is yet to speak their first words on how vulgar and threatening, the language of the Defence Ministry Secretary is.
With such a person who continues to break all the rules of the establishment code with his arrogant, uncouth and psychotic behaviour giving leadership to the Ministry of Defence, it is not suprising that the law and order situation in the country has totally collapsed. The law of the jungle is preailing today and it is not surprising no to hear the Police media spokesperson say, during the first 06 months of this year, the police have recorded 975 cases of rape against women and 700 of them were against teenage and little girls. This society knows it is Rajapaksa’s ruling political party thugs brought in as local government nominees and voted as members who have gone maniac in raping and sexually abusing young girls. A new and insane political culture at grass roots is now being nurtured with rape against women and young girls growing and drugs pedalled into villages with political patronage. This most certainly would be the local election machine of this Rajapaksa regime, when elections are fixed in the future. The police are therefore kept inactive and at times complicit in crimes committed by these political thugs, with pressure brought on the police.
We therefore once again say quite clearly and with responsibility, its the culture of impunity under this Ministry Secretary, who does not know his language is foul and vulgar, knows not his ways of reacting to queries and criticism is much less than sane, that had allowed this society to go this beastly and wild.
Unbridled power, he thinks he could wield with vulgar threats, is definitely intolerably anti social. If still the President does not remove Gotabhaya Rajapaksa from the post of Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, we don’t hesitate to say, its the right of the people to demand his removal from his office, immediately. We therefore call upon all democratic organisations, trade unions and independent professional organisations to join us in bringing this maniacal administrator to leave his post for a saner, competent person to have law and order re established, in a decent and a disciplined way.
Mangala Samaraweera – MP
Co-ordinator, UNP Media Committee
Shame! – Gotabaya Should Resign Forthwith
Tamil National alliance (TNA) MP M. A. Sumanthiran, addressing the campaign for freedom conference yesterday (11) evening in Kandy, stated emphatically that the defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse who threatened and intimidated a journalist over the phone should resign forthwith. The people should intensify their pressure towards this expulsion, he added. The whole country is ashamed at the disgraceful and offensively foul language used by the defense Secretary when speaking to the lady journalist, Sumanthiran pointed out.
(Sri Lanka X News)
Statement By Karu Jayasuriya M.P.
UNP MP Karu Jayasuriya Issued a Statement as follows : The Sunday Leader newspaper has reported in their latest edition that Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, has abused their Editor Ms Frederica Jansz in obscene language, threatened and intimidated her.
He is quoted, among others, as having told her “You are shit, shit journalist. A f……g shit. A pig who eats shit….. I will put you in jail… People will kill you. People hate you…… They will kill you. I am not afraid of the bloody courts.”
The state run media which names and shames anyone who expresses dissenting views has, however, not reacted with lightning speed to deny the report. Nor has the Ministry of Defence, one that is also equally adept at naming, shaming and even threatening the media. There remains an unpleasant record of their dealings with the media. One can only conclude therefore that The Sunday Leader account is an accurate report of conversations with Defence Secretary. As the Defence Secretary, this is the first time ever, an official of such high stature has thought it fit to use vulgar, obscene language and intimidate a journalist. This is also the first time an official has spoken publicly so contemptuously about the law courts in this country. Can the public have confidence to seek any fair play and justice from such a high official, who is behaving like a dictator? His conduct can only bring shame and disrepute to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his entire cabinet. Equally, it can give the country an even poorer image as the Government struggles today with their High Commissioners and Ambassadors abroad to give the Sri Lankan image a clean look.
I do not always agree with the views expressed by The Sunday Leader. I am aware there are journalists including Editors who hold this view. However, The Sunday Leader has its own readership and what it says has to be respected whilst one reserves the right to disagree. I commend the Editor of The Sunday Leader for informing the people of Sri Lanka and those abroad of the hardships they face only because of the arrogant and irrational conduct of one
official, who has usurped more powers than anyone else. This is why the media has been muzzled to the point of self-censorship for fear of harassment, intimidation, abductions and threats of death. Some journalists have even died. As a citizen standing for justice and fair play I call upon media rights group in Sri Lanka and abroad to unite in condemning the remarks by the Defence Secretary. It is because the right for journalists to express their views without fear, harassment, intimidation and death threats has to be ensured. Otherwise the semblance of what now remains as media freedom will soon fall prey to fear and intimidation. This is when an official tasked to protect citizens including journalists says he does not “care about Courts” and warns an Editor that “people will kill” her. In no civilized, democratic countries are such abhorrent statements made. KaruJayasuriya M.P.
12th July 2012
PEN INTERNATIONAL WOMEN WRITERS’ COMMITTEE
Dr Judith Buckrich
Human Rights: Lucina Kathmann
Flat 3, 2 Lucy Street
Gardenvale, VIC 3185
July 12, 2012
His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Fax 94 11 2446657
re. Frederica Jansz
The Women Writers Committee of PEN International, the largest worldwide association of writers, is very worried about our colleague Frederica Jansz, editor of the Sri Lankan weekly newspaper, The Sunday Leader. She received a death threat from Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa during a telephone interview on July 5, 2012.
This threat is alarming, especially under the circumstances. This newspaper’s editor Lasantha Wickramatunge, was assassinated in January of 2009. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for this crime.
We beg you to investigate this situation before more tragedies occur. We are very worried for the state of free expression in Sri Lanka, which is committed to the promotion of freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
News: Sri Lanka: Journalist Frederica Jansz Threatened; Fears For Safety
RAN 32/12 – 12 July 2012
The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International joins Article 19 in its concerns for the safety of Sri Lankan journalist Frederica Jansz (f), who received a death threat from Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa during a telephone interview on 5 July 2012. PEN International reiterates its concern for the safety of journalists in Sri Lanka, many of whom are attacked and threatened with apparent impunity for their reporting. It is calling for a full investigation into the threats against Frederica Jansz and for immediate assurances of her safety. PEN reminds the authorities of Sri Lanka’s commitments to the promotion and protection of freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory.
Please Send Appeals:
Calling for an investigation into the threats made against journalist Federica Jansz, and for her immediate protection; expressing deep concern about the implications that this threat has on the state of free expression and journalists’ safety in Sri Lanka, where a culture of impunity prevails; urging the Sri Lankan authorities to make clear its commitments to the promotion and protection of freedom of expression as per its obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Send Your Appeals To:
His Excellency the President
Fax: +94 11 2446657
Mr. Mohan Peiris
Fax: +94 11 2 436421
Messages Of Solidarity:
Send your messages of solidarity to Federica Jansz at
The Free Media Movement (FMM)
The Free Media Movement (FMM) in a statement on behalf of a collective of local media rights groups said the manner in which Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa verbally abused the Editor of The Sunday Leader Frederica Jansz shows the actual state of what the media in Sri Lanka is facing today.
“While we vehemently condemn this incident we also call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure the safety and security of Ms. Frederica Jansz for her to freely carry out her duties as a journalist.
According to Ms. Frederica Jansz the Defence secretary had used language not acceptable in a civilized society and threatened her when she contacted him over the telephone over reports he was attempting to bring down a puppy dog to Sri Lanka from overseas onboard a Sri Lankan airlines flight.
As a journalist it is only ethical and accepted that one makes an attempt to verify the information in relation to a story and its authenticity.
In this instance Ms. Frederica Jansz had done what was right and as a media rights collective we feel it gave the Defence Secretary the opportunity to give his side of the story and also correct any misinformation.
However unfortunately that is not what took place at the end.
Journalists face this kind of verbal abuse only in a society where there is no media freedom, civil rights are not protected and where democracy is weak under a dictatorial rule.
While such incidents keep occurring in Sri Lanka and when no attempt is made to prevent such incidents from taking place in future as well or punish those responsible, it shows one cannot enjoy freedom or democracy.
As a media rights collective we once again urge the President, the government and the public which respect freedom and democracy to ensure there is no room for such an incident to take place in future”.
Convener, on behalf of a collective of media rights groups
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Free Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU), Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka Tamil Media Association (SLTMA), Sri Lanka Muslim Media Federation (SLMMF), South Asia Free Media Association – Sri Lanka branch (SAFMA), Media Movement for Democracy (MMD)