Police probe into CID summoning journalists

  • Media orgs. slam CID grilling of 4th Estate members

By Dinitha Rathnayake

The Police announced yesterday (30 September) that an investigation has been launched with regard to the officers attached to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who had acted irresponsibly by summoning a newspaper editor and journalists who reported about the alleged garlic fraud at Sathosa, to record statements for an investigation.

The investigation is taking place upon a directive given by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne.

A special investigation team from the CID has visited the head office of a privately owned Sinhala newspaper to question its editor and journalists regarding a statement made by former Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Executive Director Thushan Gunawardena to the newspaper. However, they have had to leave as the editor had stated that he is not prepared to make a statement at that time. The CID officers had left, stating that they would be back on another day to take the statements of those concerned.

The Police, in a statement issued in this regard, said that summoning newspaper editors and journalists is not the normal practice, noting that when the CID seeks assistance from the media with regard to an investigation, editors are not summoned to the CID as the media provides the required assistance. The Police added that it regrets the inconvenience caused to the said newspaper editor and journalists over the said incident. The statement added that the Police respect the right to the freedom of speech and expression including publication, of the journalists as well as the public.

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd.) Sarath Weerasekera had, on 29 September, informed IGP Wickramaratne to commence an investigation related to the questioning of the said editor and journalists regarding articles on the said garlic scam at Sathosa, which has led to four Sathosa employees being sent on compulsory leave over the matter.

Meanwhile, the Media Organisations Collective in Sri Lanka condemned the Police for summoning the editor and journalists from private national newspapers who reported about the alleged garlic fraud at the Sathosa to the CID.
The Collective noted that it would continue to fight for the rights of journalists.

Cabinet Spokesman and Mass Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma said that the Government does not condone such actions where journalists are summoned to the CID. However, the Media Organisations Collective stressed that they are not satisfied with the Minister’s statement.

“This is a violation of the freedom of speech and expression including publication and could therefore lead to further wrongdoings,” the Collective said.