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Journalism: In defence of the Sunday Leader editor Frederica Jansz

"Instead of puffing up the drama and embellishing the case to throw dirt on the Sunday Leader, its staff and the management an impartial Court needs to reach a verdict on whether Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse ordered the surrendering LTTEers bearing White Flag to be shot."


by Pearl Thevanayagam

(October 17, London-Sri Lanka Guardian)
Defense Counsel Nalin Laduwahetty acts like he is on a television court drama. His cross-examination of the Sunday Leader editor Frederica Jansz on trivia such as not getting APF bureau chief and successive governments’ favourite pet journalist Amal Jayasinghe’s name right is brandished in all the newspapers.

Then he finds fault with Frederica offering her story for an award. Every journalist wants to be recognized if he/she feels he/she has got a damn good scoop which is of national interest. What’s wrong with that? Don’t lawyers and graduates parade themselves in fancy regalia on Graduation Day?

Frederica is only human and being grilled in the presence of highly paid lawyers may have slightly ruffled her but she does not seem to be deterred by the court drama. She appears impeccably and fashionably dressed as is her usual style but this outward appearance belies the strong person she has become since Lasantha’s murder. Being an editor is no easy task and taking on the government which is accused of murdering not less than 17 journalists, arresting, intimidating and imprisoning scores more on flimsy evidence and antagonistic reporting not supporting it in the short time it was in power takes courage raised to the nth power.

Question remains as to what protection is afforded to Frederica and whether international media watchdogs are assessing her predicament. The learned counsel appear not to know the difference between clarification and correction. So far Frederica has been very honest and even went to the extent of admitting she made mistakes. Mistakes mind you; not falsifications. Yet the media which should be lauding her for her courage are lampooning her.

Laduwahetty carries on making charges against Frederica on management matters such as how it gets funds to run the newspaper. Any fool knows that the editorial staff are paid employees and that they have no say in how the management funds the newspaper or the advertising department which brings in most of the revenue. If the Sunday Leader obtained money from both the government and the opposition so did the Sunday Times during election times carrying both their advertisements.

The White Flag Case as this drama has become infamously known is a very serious issue and one has to look at the allegation allegedly made by Rtd Gen. Sarath Fonseka. The Court cannot ask Frederica to disclose the name of the journalist and from what has transpired so far the Retired General had not disclosed the name to Frederica. There are many matters disclosed during interviews with journalists and journalistic ethics demand we maintain confidentiality when requested information to be off the record. Otherwise journalists lose their credibility and their information sources dry up.

Instead of puffing up the drama and embellishing the case to throw dirt on the Sunday Leader, its staff and the management an impartial Court needs to reach a verdict on whether Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse ordered the surrendering LTTEers bearing White Flag to be shot.

But the Court comprises slected judges directly on the orders of the Defense Secretary’s brother President Mahinda Rajapakse. The judiciary has become the personal property of the President and the recently passed 18th Amendment to the Constitution has strengthened him even further.

We are not expecting justice for Frederica but we do expect support for a fellow journalist who caused the wrath of the powers that be and who is not afraid to stand up for press freedom. Let us hope the media would report honestly and openly the proceedings of the trial and preserve whatever freedom it is left with.

Related Article: Editor admits to mistake during defence counsel grilling

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