[Shakuntala Perera was appointed after Asnaga Senavirathna bought the newspaper]
Editor of the Sunday leader Shakuntala Perera has resigned after the owner of the newspaper Asanga Seneviratne imposed a internal censorship over matters related to Rajapaksa family.
Asanga Seneviratne is was the Rugby coach of former President’s eldest son Namal Rajapaksa and close friend of Rajapaksa family.
The resignation letter of Sunday Leader editor follows:
Mr. Nalin Jayatilake
Dear Mr. Jayatilake,
This has reference to your intimation on 11.02.15 to me that I must with immediate effect, forward all articles finalized for publication to both you as the CEO and Mr. Asanga Seneviratne, before leaving my desk for placement in the said pages and print thereon.
You indicated the pressure brought upon the management, following the article carried in the newspaper on 08.02.15 ‘High-Flying Corruption in Aviation’ by Nirmala Kannangara, hence the decision. I am sorry about this pressure that has come upon you in the course of upholding the public interest and the public’s right to know the truth about their country and government.
I am also in receipt of a letter sent by you on 19.01.2015 directing me and ‘warning’ me against carrying articles that could serve legal implications to the Company, following the publication of two articles ie: ‘Flying high with Public Funds’ and ‘The Rs. 4 Billion Computer Scam’, both connected to corruption under the previous regime. It was also intimated to me that the management was not keen on dealing with such corruption conducted under the previous regime in general, and naming the first family in particular.
As far as I am concerned, these articles were published as a matter of routine, in the best interests of the newspaper and its readership. Many stories of a similar nature have been published in prior editions of this newspaper. The sole criteria for publication on my part during my tenure as editor has been the availability of foolproof documentary evidence. I did no more than publish articles that were foolproof and supported by documentary evidence.It is also pertinent to note that these were not the only individuals about whom investigative stories have been carried. There have been other politicians, public officials and businessmen too.
Therefore, as a journalist who believes in journalism in the public interest I feel that your request that I submit all my copy to you for final approval is difficult to accede to. While I appreciate your concern on the business aspect of the newspaper, it is important to note the crucial role the credibility of the newspaper plays in meeting these interests. The credibility of the newspaper rests on its independence and lack of bias in its reporting. You will agree that even in very difficult circumstances we have always sought to maintain the accuracy and integrity in our news. I have always followed these principles as editor of the Sunday Leader.
It is also my belief that as the editor of the Sunday Leader I owe a certain duty to my readership to carry whatever story that comes my way that highlights misdemeanors and corrupt practices. I also wish to state that on no occasion have these stories been sourced by me. I have merely seen to their publication in the interests of the public. I wish to bring to your attention that my experience as a journalist for two decades has ensured that the practices of responsible journalism has not once evaded me.
It is also pertinent to note that with the change of government, we have been trying to engage in journalism, free from state and political influence, as promised by the new government. I am therefore surprised that while any pressure from the previous political regime has ceased, I am being asked by you as the publisher, to curtail from carrying on my duties as the Editor of the newspaper, and engage in practices that go against the principles and ethics I have hitherto exercised.
I therefore find it very difficult to agree to the suggestion of forwarding articles, which have already been scrutinized by me and received my approval for publication, to be sent to you and Mr. Seneviratne for further approval.I believe this poses a serious threat on the freedoms that I wish to share with my Editorial staff, as well as undermining my role and credibility as an Editor who is called on to act in the public interest; a role in which I wish to remind you I have not failed since I took over.
It is under these circumstances that I wish to tender my resignation from the post to you.