The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka took the most unusual step of protecting his “peace plan” with the Tamil terrorist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam by calling all editors of major dailies and weeklies of the country by telephone and asking them not to publish any news or comment against the peace plan.
Sources close to the editors told this correspondent that Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s most troubled Prime Minister by the opposition criticism, started calling the editors in the afternoon of September 5, 2002 requesting them not to publish any adverse news critical of the government’s efforts to have peace or comment critical of his government’s controversial move, some times described by the parliamentary opposition as “bending backwards to satisfy the Tamil Tigers”
One editor who wanted to remain anonymous said that the Prime Minister’s call was very intimidating and no discussion would be possible about the controversial “peace process” of the Ranil Wickremesinghe government.
Though Sri Lanka’s state owned media, the Lake House newspaper publishing company, the television service the Rupavahini and the radio service, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation have been abused by all present and previous governments for disinformation-through government propaganda in the past always there had been some avenue for opposition views in the privately held companies that broadcast or printed. But media analysts in Colombo pointed out that after the formation of government by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe who himself is a scion of a newspaper magnate, the late Esmond Wickremesinghe who fought over government take over of newspaper ironically, most of the privately held media houses which were owned by his close relatives like maternal uncle or brother came under his control. The relatively few other media houses also came under tremendous pressure of his rule since they were indebted to state institutions or close political allies of the ruling United National party government.
When contacted an editor told this correspondent that disregarding a telephone call from the Prime Minister would mean the invitation of lot of trouble including the loss of his job. Losing the career, as an editor in the impoverished country is a loss of it most probably for life where there are no opportunities, he said.
Most of the tabloid newspapers that fought against the previous governments over freedom of the press issues are political in nature and since the formation of this government through financial help have been turned into pro-government publications. (EOM)