Post-war Sri Lanka’s media landscape: In conversation with Frederica Jansz

Before she was forced to flee Sri Lanka, before the Sunday Leader started to edit submissions by long-standing and senior columnists critical of government and in particular, the ruling family and before the paper strangely started to apologise for articles published six years ago, Groundviews caught up with its erstwhile Editor and senior journalist Frederica Jansz. Because Groundviews suffered serious technical issues, this video interview wasn’t published earlier on the site.

Recorded shortly after Frederica was fired from her post as Editor of the Sunday Leader, the interview touches on her time at the newspaper and taking over its helm after the murder of its previous Editor, the significant challenges she faced to keep the newspaper financially viable as well as maintain its journalistic integrity, the deeply divisive partisan politics that often inform Editorial decisions and how they impacted the newspaper’s functioning and perception, the larger problem of mainstream media economics that lead to owners of media overpowering Editorial control, the state of independent media and investigative journalism in post-war Sri Lanka and the future as she sees it for media freedom in general.

  • Jayalath

    The politicians are instinctively hostile to the free of speech . In some countries journalists face dire consequences . One is in Sri Lanka , where many people put their lives to defend the free of speech for decades to come . Richard de Soysa , Lasantha , are few out of many who paid the highest price in the name of media freedom .

    The journalism is quality of investigating and reporting of an event, but there are many variations of journalism in the modern society . The journalist’s main role is to become the middle man and who should listen and record the informations and distills it and pass it to the public for their consumption .

    Unfortunate of Sri lankans that they do not enjoy the right of media, although it is conventional in the world . Does the journalism act to its principle ? Do they impartial ? It is arguable .

  • georgethebushpig

    Dear Ms. Jansz,

    Thank you for all the good work of the past and I sincerely hope that you will continue to write and challenge the bankrupt political system that throws up a unique breed of sycophants.

    Like Julian Assange, you too are paying the price of speaking truth to power. While I may have taken issue with specific positions that you have advanced, I never doubted your journalistic integrity, courage and commitment to serve the interests of the people of Sri Lanka. If the majority of journalists in Sri Lanka had 1/10th the cojones that you have, maybe the discourse in the mainstream media maybe very different and Sri Lanka would be a safer place to live.

    I guess with the rise of Asanga Seniviratne as media mogul we have our very own Rupert Murdoch to worry about!

    I however believe all’s not lost. We need to look to examples in other countries where they have managed to bypass mainstream media and get the message to the street. Mosireen in Egypt is one such example – http://mosireen.org/

    They have designed a good formula for staying independent.

    All the best in your future endeavors.

  • M.H.M.Firdous

    I think the Sri Lankan media yet to find a way forward with careful prioritization strategies that is in compliance with journalistic principles and ethics as well as lead to contribution and take partnership in building socially and politically pluralistic, economically well developed country.

    We can learn from the decade old experience the Arab TV channel Al-Jazeera in developing grass root settings on all the issues while sitting on the laps of Dictators.

    I hope this would enable the Sri Lankan media and journalist to find a way forward and re-shape their strategies to uphold the journalistic values and empower the society by careful prioritization.

  • Jane Russell

    Frederica Jansz was the only journalist with the gumption (and nose for a good story) to turn up to Mirihana Police Station, where I was being held in April 1996, to interview me before my deportation from Sri Lanka.

    I have watched her interview with Groundviews tonight and I must say she hasn’t changed a bit from that young reporter in search of a story, who was willing to listen and observe carefully, without interposing her ego or opinion or making judgements, and then report clearly and truthfully what she had seen and heard.

    I used to write the Editorials for the Sunday Times for a few months in 1978 when Rita Sebastian was Editor: she would tell me the topic and angle, and I would put my ‘Oxford English’ to work –it was usually the early hours of Sunday morning, hot and sticky under the whirring fan, deathly quiet in Fort outside the open window, and the plain tea didn’t do much good in keeping us awake as we yawned and gossiped, waiting for the paper to be ” put to bed”. But those sleepless Saturday nights and Sunday mornings left me with great admiration for Sri Lankan journalists and the hardships they endure…. how many have since been murdered, ‘disappeared’, run away to involuntary exile, died before their time of disappointment, stress and alcohol, committed suicide, learnt to keep their counsel (and their jobs)? It was 1973, wasn’t it, when Mervyn de Silva was forced to resign as Editor of the Ceylon Daily News for allowing the obituary announcing that “D.E.M. O’Cracy” had died to appear in its Obituary columns, after Mrs Bandaranaike extended her Presidency by dubious constitutional means? What a lot of journalists’ blood has flowed under the bridge (of Free Speech? of Sighs?) since then! And now another one bites the dust….

    Well, Frederica, if it’s any consolation, you look scarcely a day older than the evening in 1996 when you crept into the womens’ sleeping quarters at Mirihana Detention Centre, having bribed the female guard to look the other way….Bon Chance mon ami!

    Jane Russell (Dr.)