Dismissal of Sri Lankan Editor “Blatant Interference in Editorial Independence”

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the sudden dismissal of The Sunday Observer editor, Rajpal Abenayaka on October 10, as an unacceptable interference in editorial of state owned media.

According to an IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), Abenayaka published a column critical of a presidential speech on October 8. Two days later he was asked to resign by the state-controlled Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. (ANCL), which owns the English language weekly.

Despite Abenayaka refusing to tender his resignation, a new The Sunday Observer editor was reportedly appointed the same day.

“This is a blatant interference in editorial independence,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

“To remove an editor from his position simply because of critical comments published in an opinion column is a direct attack on democracy and freedom of speech in Sri Lanka,” Warren said.

This is not the first time the ANCL has interfered in the editorial functioning of its newspapers.

According to the FMM, Dinamina, the Sinhala language daily of ANCL, has had 14 editors removed from their positions in the last 12 years.

“This is a shocking track record and is a further indication of the extent to which the appointment and removal of editors is being used to control the content of state-run media,” Warren said.

“Editorial independence is indispensable to press freedom and quality journalism. The high level of interference in state media indicates there is vital need to establish a genuinely independent public service media,” Warren said.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries