Payoffs for scribes to skew reporting on Duminda Silva’s appeal hearings? | Sunday Observer

Payoffs for scribes to skew reporting on Duminda Silva’s appeal hearings?

12 August, 2018

Reports that selected media personnel had been given payoffs to the tune of Rs 150,000 to skew reporting about Duminda Silva’s appeal against his conviction for the murder of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra in 2011, were ‘not untrue’, the Attorney General told a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court during the hearings.

State prosecutors flagged the unethical and contemptuous media reporting on Silva’s appeal case, saying the reports carried only statements made in court by lawyers for the defendant, while representing them as facts ‘proven’ in court.

(See full story and AG’s revelations on Page 8-9)

Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige informed court that reports that a journalist of an ultra-nationalist Sinhala language newspaper had been distributing cash payoffs to the tune of Rs. 150,000 to print media journalists to prevent reporting on submissions and facts put forward during the appeal proceedings by the prosecution, were ‘not untrue’.

The coordinated campaign has led investigators to an unfolding scandal about the purchase of certain scribes by parties connected to the convicted politician.

The same media reports also devote no reporting to the facts that led to the convictions in High Court presented to the five judge bench of the Supreme Court by the Attorney General’s Department, the prosecution noted.

The prosecution noted that the repeated broadcast and communication of distorted court proceedings in the media had the potential to alter the perceptions of the public and the judges.

“This situation is a powerful challenge to the entire process of justice and the authorities should even at this late stage, impose regulations on the media on how such facts are reported – this would be a national service,” the Deputy Solicitor General said during the appeals hearing.

The Sunday Observer learns that law enforcement officials are aware of the payoffs and suspect payments have also been made to desk editors and senior personnel at certain print media organisations.

In September 2016, a High Court trial-at-bar convicted former Monitoring MP of the Defence Ministry, Duminda Silva and four others including an underworld character known as Dematagoda Chaminda for the murder of SLFP trade union leader Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and three others on October 8, 2011.