Sumanthiran recalls ‘press freedom’ in MR-era | Sunday Observer

Sumanthiran recalls ‘press freedom’ in MR-era

6 May, 2018

Lawmaker and senior lawyer M.A. Sumanthiran last week recalled the dark days of press freedom in Sri Lanka under the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.

Relating an incident during a memorial event organized by the Uthayan newspaper in Jaffna to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Sumanthiran said that prior to the murder of Former Editor of The Sunday Leader newspaper, Lasantha Wickremethunga, ex-Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had filed two cases against the Sunday Leader newspaper. “He had obtained two injunctions calling to not report on him. Even the lawyers who appeared for Wickremethunga withdrew due to fear,” he said. When the case came up for hearing in the District Court, Mount Lavinia and former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was summoned to give evidence, he (Sumanthiran) said he was the one who appeared to cross-examine him for six hours but that was not given publicity in the media because journalists were not permitted to enter the courtrooms on that day, he said.

But instead he was portrayed as a ‘Black Coat Traitor’ in a Defence Ministry official website together with pictures of himself and those of his juniors he said, adding that this was not removed for two weeks despite strong protests from the Bar Association.

Two days prior to the assassination of Wickremetunge, the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya had obtained an interim injunction preventing Wickrematunge from publishing any defamatory articles on him in the Sunday Leader, he said. What was ironic was that although Gotabaya could have been arrested on three occasions on the strength of evidence which the CID had obtained on his involvement, but the long arm of the law did not reach him, he said. The event by the Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper was held to remember the slain journalist and co-workers.