Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe challenged former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to make a statement on the New York Times (NYT) report in Parliament.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the Prime Minister said his Government ushered in media freedom and will protect it.
Replying to MEP Dinesh Gunawardena who charged that the Government was behind the New York Times report, the PM denied any Government involvement in it. “We don’t know. We didn’t publish it,” he said.
MP Gunawardena raising a question under the Standing Order 27 (2) accused the Government of tapping the phone calls received to media stations. He charged that media personnel and listeners of Neth FM had been intimidated. Replying to these concerns, the Prime Minister said the Kollupitiya Police has commenced an investigation over a news story carried on Neth FM programme “Balumgala” upon a complaint received from Deputy Minister Palitha Thewarapperuma. He said Police had recorded statements from two journalists who conducted the programme and had sought court permission to record statements from another three persons.
“Police will submit a full report. The Government has not interfered in this incident. Media channels air this type of programmes because they have enough media freedom,” he said. He also said that he would look into how Police received the telephone numbers of listeners, while observing that if Police is in possession of the relevant tape of the programme, it can easily find the numbers of listeners.