The Sunday Leader

Freedom Of Speech And Freedom To Mourn

The two issues that grabbed the headlines last week were Mangala Samaraweera filing a case against the head of a leading media institution and the government prohibiting anybody from glorifying or promoting the LTTE even under the pretext of media freedom. With reference to some incidents, there is a question about media freedom and whether that freedom is being misused. Many have expressed their discontent of Mangala Samaraweera filing a case against the head of a leading media institute based on a personal conflict of interests while others questioned whether the media has acted with a sense of professional integrity.

Prohibiting anybody from glorifying or promoting the LTTE by the government with special reference to the LTTE heroes week last week, some held the view that commemorating the dead should be allowed as there is a clear difference between mourning their dead and promoting or glorifying the LTTE.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, several political parties and civil society members expressed their views on the matter.


Mano Ganesan  Leader of the Democratic People’s Front

I do not approve of any legal actions against the media. Political issues should find political solutions but should not cross its limits.

The government prohibiting anybody to glorify LTTE as heroes is a wasted attempt. Somebody’s national hero is often somebody else’s enemy.

Those who took arms against Sri Lankan government in 1971 and 1987 during JVP insurrections were considered as rebels who fought against the state.

If they have allowed JVP to commemorate and glorify their leaders, why should not they allow LTTE to do the same?

There should not be any ethnic discriminations to decide who should be allowed to mourn and commemorate their dead.

Sunil Handunnetti JVP MP

While the government on one side celebrates the victory, the supporters of the LTTE are commemorating their fallen heroes. Either way, it revives the ethnic conflicts.

It is high time that both parties avoid any sensitive references to the past that would result in any form of clashes.

The war is now a part of the history. We do not have to relive it but should move forward from where it stopped. It is the future that matters the most and we should address the future issues without dealing with a dead past.

However, if the government is using its political power to violate the rights of the individuals and individual freedom, it is not accepted.

The government should not use its powers to promote ethnic discrimination. The responsibility of the government is to overcome these issues. At the same time, if certain political groups in North and East are creating conflicts through aggravating issues on ethnic grounds, it is not acceptable. Neither should media be a part of that.

With reference to Mangala Samaraweera filing a case against the head of a leading media station in the country, it is a matter of different conflicts of interests.


Vickramabahu Karunaratne The Nawa Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) leader

Media has the freedom to criticize and question any politician under public or private domains if it affects the public.

If any media station constantly singles out and harasses a person, he or she has the right to file a case against the particular station.

Sometime back the JVP was considered a group of rebels in the country and was recognized as terrorists. JVP was allowed to commemorate the death of Rohana Wijeweera whereas Tamils who consider Velupillai Prabhakaran as their leader are not allowed to commemorate his death.

They should not be treated differently on ethnic grounds.


Jehan Perera Executive Director of the National Peace Council

The issue here is democracy and the relationship between a free media and independent judiciary. It is also to see if the complainant’s rights have been violated. This applies whether it is a privately owned media or state controlled media.

We expect the judiciary in a democratic country to consider the issues of media freedom on one hand and the defamation of a politician on the other hand, and come to an impartial judgment based on the law. In general, those who are in public life have to be able to tolerate a greater degree of media scrutiny.  This is the price of freedom, which they must be willing to pay.

The fundamental tenet of democracy is that statements made in the supreme legislature must not be expunged, unless they are libellous. The Hansard proceedings are to enable the public to know what their representatives are debating and the positions they take.

The extent of which this is blocked shows an unhealthy democracy. With regard to the Hon Sritharan’s statement, we must not only note what is said, but what the underlying message is. I believe it is one of continuing alienation of a section of the Sri Lankan people from the mainstream who feel their grievances are not being addressed.


Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu CPA’s Executive Director

There is no law against witch-hunting in the country.

I do not know the grounds on which Mangala Samaraweera has filed a case against one of the premier media stations in the country.

And therefore I am unable to give my point of view regarding the matter.

However, I believe that the LTTE should not be glorified even under the cover of media freedom.

But, we should understand that glorification of LTTE and commemorating the dead are two different concepts that should not be misinterpreted.

Anybody should have the right to mourn their dead ones.

Ravi Karunanayake UNP MP

The matter related to Mangala Samaraweera filing a case against the particular media institute is a personal matter gone beyond its limits to a hostile premise.

According to my point of view, it is an unwanted issue that has created unnecessary hostility.

The head of this particular media is a friend who is being brought to court for an issue that needs to be solved outside the court.

The government prohibiting any kind of glorification of the LTTE is the biggest hypercritic statement of the government.

The government has embraced many former LTTE supporters like K. P.,Pillayan and Karuna Amman for their benefit while they put prohibitions to public and media not to promote and glorify LTTE.

As a party, we have always been on the stand that LTTE should not be glorified.


Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe National organizer of the JHU

There has not been anybody equal to Mangala Samaraweera who went into the town with issues on media freedom.

It is highly ironical that a person such as Mangala Samaraweera bringing a head of a media institution to court.

This shows how incapable he is to bear criticisms when it is directed at him and his interests.

In the pretext of media freedom, nobody has a fair reason to glorify LTTE, as it is a banned organization in the country.

The government should implement the law in the country against those who glorify Velupillai Prabhakaran according to the laws of the country.

If TNA as the political front of the LTTE or any other affiliated NGOs or media stations are engaged in direct or indirect way to promote LTTE ideologies, immediate action should be taken by the government to put an end to promoting terrorism in the country.

Charitha Herath Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mass Media and Information

Media freedom applies to every media in this country.

If any kind of incident like that between the media and the government occurred (Mangala Samaraweera incident), the opposition would go to town regarding the issue.

However, since the opposition is directly involved with the current case filed against the head of a certain media station, nobody seems to raise questions.

On the other hand why should the media or anybody for that matter promote the values of a banned organization like the LTTE.

Many countries including United States have recognized LTTE as a terrorist group and banned the organisation in their countries.

Nobody should give recognitions to a ruthless terrorist group like the LTTE that violates the human right of the people.

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