Speaking to reporters at the Opposition Leader’s Office this morning, UNP MPs Ajith P Perera and Eran Wickramaratne accused the government of resorting to new tactics to intimidate the press.
Cooray, who the UNP-led Yahapalana Government had appointed as Chairman of the state-run Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (Lake House), has been in the news this week over telephone calls he is said to have made to former Sunday Observer editor Dharisha Bastians.
Citing call records, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Tuesday (January 21) informed the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court that the Swiss embassy staffer who was allegedly abducted on November 25 had been in contact with a SIM registered under AFP journalist Lanka Paranamanna, four days before the incident.
According to media reports, Paranamanna in a statement given to the CID on January 17 said she had given her SIM to Bastians. Further analysis revealed, the CID has claimed, that Cooray had been on the phone with the Sunday Observer editor on 21 occasions.
The UNP questioned the relevance of this claim.
“There were reports that Mr Cooray was engaged in conversations with the Sunday Observer editor, which would only be natural since he was chairman [of Lake House at the time]. He must’ve had conversations with all his editors,” said MP Wickramaratne.
MP Perera said Cooray, who hails from a “respected media family”, has a clean record with no allegations of ever breaking the law.
“Why should his speaking to one of his editors arouse suspicion? There is no evidence at all that he had talked to the Swiss embassy employee,” he said, suggesting that the groundwork is possibly being laid for an illegal arrest.
The MP further said the reports alleging Cooray’s involvement in the incident serve as a warning to all journalists to exercise self-censorship in their reporting.
“All media personnel should stand up for the rights of journalists and media managers,” he said.
Wickramaratne warned the allegations levelled against Cooray is part of a new strategy to intimidate journalists into silence.
“To link him to this case is a strategy to drive fear into media personnel. The strategy is not to murder, but to use fear as a tool of management and to use fear to manage society. This will not work. Sri Lankans must stand up for media freedom,” he said.
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by economynext.com has not been edited by SLM staff)