‘Whither investigative journalism in Sri Lanka?’ | Sunday Observer

‘Whither investigative journalism in Sri Lanka?’

Marking ten years since Lasantha WIckrematunge was killed in broad daylight, a discussion panel grappled with the idea as to where investigative journalism stands today. The theme of the discussion was ‘10 years after Lasantha: whither investigative journalism in Sri Lanka?’

The panel consisting of Editor, Groundviews and niece of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Raisa Wickrematunge; Editor, Sunday Observer Dharisha Bastians; AFP Sri Lanka and Maldives Bureau Chief Amal Jayasinghe; Nikkei Asian Review Regional Correspondent and Former Sunday Leader Features Editor Marwaan Macan-Markar expressed many ideas as to how journalism in the country could evolve for the better.

Several key points were raised, based on and emanating from, Lasantha - the journalist. The Sunday Leader of which Lasantha was the Editor was known for its boldness and most importantly the exclusives that were a result of investigative journalism, not something that is seen in journalism to a great extent.

Macan-Markar said that one of the main reasons for investigative journalism to wither was the lack of a trendsetter or leader, which was what Lasantha had been.

As many traits that have fallen on to the sidewalk, Macan-Markar said in the past, daily papers would pick up issues from the weekend papers and continue to apply pressure on the authorities over issues, which does not happen anymore. He attributed this to the competitive landscape of the media.

Dharisha Basitians said Lasantha, the writer would always stand up for democracy with sheer grit “He was at the forefront of every battle to safeguard democracy and preserve the Republic. It’s remarkable that somehow those values that Lasantha stood for against all odds, so recklessly, has somehow managed to inculcate in each one of us, to continue to write and to continue to toe the line, at a time when democracy was on a knife’s edge in the last two or three months,” she said.

While highlighting the sorry situation in which, even after ten years, the investigations have not seen the end of the tunnel, Amal Jayasinghe said that not only Lasantha’s but many other incidents - attacks, threats on journalists have not been concluded.

He said that there is no comprehensive list of these attacks maintained. There’s even lesser knowledge of such attacks on journalists in the Tamil media who are mostly from the North and East.

Speaking of Lasantha ‘the lawyer’ he questioned if the legal fraternity had done anything for their colleague. “A lawyer who appeared on behalf of Lasantha during the Mig case and had written to the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at that time, saying Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not even worth twenty rupees, had recently during the constitutional crisis made representations before court on behalf of the latter’s camp.” Jayasinghe questioned whether it was professional and ethical to act in such a manner.

Lawyers have failed to push authorities, to seek justice for their friend and colleague.

He said that the criminal justice system needs to be reformed for better justice.

“The highest military officer of the country was arrested recently. The systems are not completely destroyed. The blame is not entirely on politicians. We as journalists and citizens have a responsibility to pursue these cases”, Jayasinghe said.

Speaking of investigative journalism Raisa Wickrematunge said that there needs to be a system in place to encourage it.

The need for a proper institution and more resources to encourage and increase professional journalism and investigative journalism was identified at the forum. 

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