Exceptional responses to questions from media
Groundviews was able to obtain an audio recording of an exchange between Swiss journalist Karin Wenger and a well-known, senior journalist now part of the Presidential Media Unit (PMU). Karin’s visa and media accreditation to cover the Sri Lankan presidential election was revoked after she asked several questions from government representatives at an official press briefing.Â As reported by Deutsche Welle,
“I asked two questions,” Wenger says. “Why were there so many troops in front of opposition candidate Fonseka’s hotel? And the second referred to rumours we kept hearing: Was it true that the president’s brother Basil Rajapaksa was inside the election commission’s office?” An official stopped her after the press conference and started shouting at her: “I won’t be subdued by a white skin! Keep this in mind!”
As reported in Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Karin Wenger’s deportation order was rescinded by the government on 31 January, which perhaps as a face saving measure said the order was based on ‘false information’. We do not know what this ‘false information’ was, or why it was of so serious a nature as to suddenly revoke Karin’s visa just after her line of questioning.
Groundviews was told that Karin was subsequently invited to a meal at Temple Trees, the President’s official residence in Colombo. We do not know whether she actually accepted the invitation.
Sadly however, this inane verbal abuse by supine apparatchiks of the President signifies a churlish regime, unable and unwilling to grasp the importance of civil and progressive media relations, communications skills and soft diplomacy after the end of war.Â The resulting negative perception of Sri Lanka is not one that can be contained or addressed by offers of free meals at Temple Trees.