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Govt. leaders indirectly threaten and harass the media: Ruwan Wijewardena

In a statement released by the United National Party (UNP) today (07), Deputy Leader of the Party Ruwan Wijewardena alleged that even though the current government came to power promising to ensure media freedom,  there have been reports of government leaders indirectly threatening and harassing the media.

Addressing the recent reports of an alleged plan to shut down the Sirisa Media organisation, Wijewardena stated that it would be ridiculous for any regime to think that the repression of media can cover up the problems of the people. 

“It is reported that Sirasa Media has again come under threat by the present government. Sirasa Media is an institution that speaks directly to the people without fear. As a media institution, we feel that they are fulfilling their responsibilities by talking about current issues such as the economy and the fertilizer shortage, as well as the problems faced by the entire country,” he said.

He also alleged that during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule from 2005 to 2015, journalists were subjected to inhumane attacks, while media institutions were bombed, adding that the biggest threat was faced by the Sirasa Media network. 

“The buildings where its main operations center was located were bombed. Journalists were also attacked, and many lost their lives. We went through a dark period in our history,” he alleged.

Highlighting that freedom of speech is a principle that the UNP has always welcomed, the Party stated that the government should immediately intervene to solve the problems of the people without attempting to silence the media. Further, Wijewardena urged Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella to immediately make a statement about the situation regarding Sirasa. 

“As a party, we call on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to commit to ensuring media freedom,” he said.

Further, it was also mentioned that the UNP historically advocated for media rights.

“Although the UNP was the most criticized party by the media, we never tried to suppress the freedom of speech. Our party leader, Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, was the most criticized person by the media during the period of good governance. Adapting to the Buddhist philosophy, he did not shy away from criticism. It is a feature of democracy. We believe that accepting media criticism will go a long way in improving the future of the country,” he stated.

Addressing the period of the Yahapalanaya regime, Wijewardane stated that media criticism was never responded to with repression.

“We always tried to take the country down the right path. That is why we tried to establish independence even in state media institutions,” he concluded.