And now they come for us
Once again editors at The Sunday Leader are under threat. Last Thursday, October 22, Frederica Jansz, Editor-in-Chief of this newspaper and Munza Mushtaq, News Editor were both sent two hand written death threats by post.
The two letters are identical — written in red ink and appear to have been posted on October 21, 2009. Coincidentally, the late Lasantha Wickrematunge, founder Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Leader was sent a similar missive — also written in red ink — in December last year, three weeks before he was murdered.
This newspaper has consistently in the entire 15 years of its existence come under attack. We have been burnt, bombed, sealed, harassed and threatened, culminating in January this year with the brutal killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Not satisfied with that assassination, The Sunday Leader has continued to come under attack. In May this year, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa brought a fresh case against the newspaper and its Editor, Frederica Jansz alleging we were in contempt of an ongoing case in court for having carried a profile on him days after he won the war.
Barely two weeks later after we were asked to show cause in Court, five lawyers who appeared for The Sunday Leader in this case of contempt of court were branded ‘traitors’ by the government’s very own Defence Ministry web site.
This was followed by another article also posted on the Defence Ministry web site by none other that the Defence Secretary himself Gotabaya Rajapaksa where he reiterated the position of the previous article on the Defence Ministry web site going a step further and accusing the five lawyers appearing for The Sunday Leader as running “to their Nanny” the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa’s defensive and angry rebuttal followed the BASL and the International Bar Association having issued statements on the incident condemning the actions of the Defence Ministry.
Thereafter, continuing this war against The Sunday Leader, in September, the web page of the Media Centre for National Security carried a slanderous article refuting certain statements made to al Jazeera by Frederica Jansz in relation to the infamous Channel 4 video. The article went so far as to even carry terminology such as “prostituting and prostitute.”
This was despite Frederica Jansz having clearly in her interview to al Jazeera stated that Channel 4 – UK should never have aired the controversial video unless and until it had checked the authenticity of the images.
However, to the credit of Director, Media Centre for National Security, Lakshman Hulugalle no sooner Frederica informed him of the scurrilous article he had it removed from the web site. Interestingly, though he told Frederica at the time she informed him of the article in question that he had absolutely no knowledge it was even on the site and she had to in fact walk him through the motions to even find it. The Media Centre for National Security functions under the purview of the Defence Ministry.
Last week’s death threat to both Frederica Jansz and Munza Mushtaq appears to follow a similar pattern. The Sunday Leader last week on October 18, carried a front page news item which said that in a controversial turn of events, a United States company specialising in forensic services has in a preliminary report maintained that no tampering or editing was carried out in either the video or audio portions of the controversial Channel 4 video clip which showed a man in Sri Lankan military uniform executing civilians. Our story merely reported extracts from the report as well as quoted Minister Keheliya Rambukwella who we spoke to in relation to its contents.
The Sunday Leader has been a controversial newspaper because we say it like we see it: whether it be a spade, a thief or a murderer, we call it by that name. We do not hide behind euphemism. The investigative articles we print are supported by documentary evidence. We have exposed scandal after scandal, and never once in these 15 years has anyone proved us wrong or successfully prosecuted us.
From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. The journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.