Sajith New Democratic Front (NDF) presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa said today he would further liberalise media freedom giving journalists an unrestricted access to criticise anyone whether it was fair or unfair.
He said politicians must be alerted by the media because it is the media exposing them when they engage in fraud and corruption helped them to remain honest and clean politicians.
“In other words, honest politicians with a clean track record need not be afraid of the media because they know that the media has no reason to point fingers at them,” he said.
Mr. Premadasa said this when addressing media personnel at the ‘Water’s Edge’ at Battaramulla.
"The fourth estate on which democracy stands is the media, the other three being the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Therefore, if media collapses or is weakened, democracy will also collapse. That is why we must project the media because the media is the mainstay of any democracy," he said. “We have first-hand experience as to how the media was suppressed, trampled and crushed before 2015. Journalists were abducted, harassed and murdered in cold blood. Media institutions were invaded and set on fire. Media personnel fled the country fearing for their lives while the judiciary, media freedom and law and order were in tatters. They had no voice and rulers did what they wanted. After 2015 we restored democracy, the rule of law and media freedom making way for the media to attack us even with fabrications, distortions, canards and absolute lies. Though unethical, unhealthy and indecent we have given you that freedom and I assure you that I stand for that freedom and dignity.”
Mr. Premadasa said the question before the media is whether you want this freedom you enjoyed during the past four and half years to continue or do you want to return to that dark era of dictatorship, white van, abductions and murders. He said it was for them to decide.
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne recollected how he discontinued all ties with the Rajapaksa regime after the assassination of the ‘Sunday Leader’ editor late Lasantha Wickramatunga.
“I was in Parliament on January 8, 2009 when I got a call saying that Lasantha was shot and taken to the Kalubowila Hospital. I immediately rang up Health Director Dr. Anil Jasinghe and inquired about Lasnatha. He said he was in a critical condition and that the hopes for his survival were bleak. I told him to everything possible to save his life but a few minutes later Dr. Jasinghe called me again and said Lasantha had passed away. He was a close friend of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and myself. I made a big scene in the lobby of the parliament that day and said I would resign from my portfolio as I did not want to remain in the government any longer. In a few minutes, I got a message from President Rajapaksa to meet him immediately. I met him and inquired from him who was responsible for the murder of our mutual friend Lasantha and he said he also wanted to know and told me he would order a full inquiry and I must help and I agreed. Nothing happened and I turned against the government,” the Minister said.
He said Lasantha was supposed to give evidence about corruption in an arms deal on the procurement of MIG fighter jets and assured that all delayed court cases on crimes, corruptions and misappropriations would be expedited under a Premadasa presidency after November 16. (Sandun A Jayasekara)