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Jan-15-2013 23:58printcomments

Frederica Jansz Interview Reveals Shocking Danger Facing Sri Lankan Journalists

"Post war Sri Lanka remains trapped in a bubble of intolerance..." - Frederica Jansz

Frederica Jansz was the editor for <i>The Sunday Leader</i> in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Frederica Jansz was the editor for The Sunday Leader in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

(SACRAMENTO, CA) - The new Al Jazeera video interview (below) with Frederica Jansz, offers a direct line of sight into Sri Lanka's ongoing campaign against the media.

Lasantha Wickramatunga

Frederica was the editor for The Sunday Leader in Colombo and after years of remaining determined to stay and make a difference, she was forced to flee Sri Lanka in recent months and appeal for asylum. She is now living in an undisclosed location.

We recently observed the anniversary of the assassination of The Sunday Leader's Editor In Chief and founder, Lasantha Wickramatunga, who was threatened many times and then attacked and shot in broad daylight in January 2009, suffering wounds he would not survive.

As his successor, Frederica suffered years of death threats and was twice followed home by men on motorbikes. With Lasantha's viscous murder so recent, there was no doubt to Frederica that her life was in danger.

After Lasantha's death, the Sunday Leader's reputation for hard hitting news that the government despised continued without missing a beat, with Frederica at the helm of the news operation, but one article turned the tide against her for the final time. It was titled: Gota Goes Berserk!, and stemmed from an interview between Jansz and Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, that turned extremely hostile. Frederica was asking about the use of a Sri Lanka Airlines plane for personal purposes, to transport a dog to a member of the Rajapaksa family. The unscheduled flight left many passengers hanging and seemed like a joke in this modern world where people schedule flights for important purposes.

During the interview, which was recorded, Gotabaya Rajapaksa lost it, went absolutely nuts and threatened to sue the newspaper, then he threatened Frederica's life. In fact, he threw a true 'fit' like a small child who pounds his fist on the floor because he is spoiled and didn't get exactly what he wanted at meal time.

Here are some highlights from that recorded interview:

    GR: Yes I threatened you. Your type of journalists are pigs who eat shit! Pigs who eat shit! Shit, Shit Shit journalists!!! Ninety percent of the people in this country hate you! They hate you!!! You come for a function where I am and I will tell people this is the Editor of The Sunday Leader and ninety percent there will show that they hate you.

    FJ: I don’t think so.

    GR: You don’t? That is your ego!! You are a shit, shit journalist. A f…..g shit. A pig who eats shit! I will go to courts!!! I will not withdraw the case on the MIG deal – this is how you wrote…

    FJ: I had nothing to do with that story so I cannot comment.

    GR: But I will put you in jail! You shit journalist trying to split this country – trying to show otherwise from true Sinhala Buddhists!! You are helped by the US Ambassador, NGOs and Paikiasothy – they pay you!!!

    FJ: I wish.

    GR: You pig that eats shit!!! You shit shit dirty f…..g journalist!!!

    FJ: I hope you can hear yourself Mr. Rajapaksa.

    GR: People will kill you!!! People hate you!!! They will kill you!!!

    FJ: On your directive?

    GR: What?? No. Not mine. But they will kill you – you dirty f…..g shit journalist.

I asked Frederica to comment on the interview below from Al Jazeera that reveals so much about a nation seemingly bent on eliminating and disappearing journalists and media workers who cross the line, and that is awfully easy for a journalist to do when it comes to reporting the politics of Sri Lanka.

She kindly sent this paragraph back in response:

    "Post war Sri Lanka remains trapped in a bubble of intolerance. The ruling Rajapaksa clan led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his coterie of brothers have continued to persecute journalists, human rights activists and the judiciary who dare to remain independent and stand tall of the ruling executive. Those who dare to uphold the rule of law and the freedom of expression have had to pay a huge price. And the exodus of dozens of journalists from Sri Lanka post war, speaks volumes for the sorry state of affairs in particular for the right to the freedom of expression and the independence of the Fourth Estate in a country gone quite mad."

Listening Post - Feature: Frederica Jansz: Sri Lanka's media crackdown - AlJazeeraEnglish

Photo by Bonnie King

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With almost 25 years of experience on the west coast and worldwide as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor, Tim King is's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.

Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu

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Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide.

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Jeyam January 16, 2013 1:40 pm (Pacific time)

Excellent journalism. Keep up the good work.

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