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New York Times Says its Lanka Reporters Under Threat

The report alleged that Rajapakse's campaign took millions in bribes from a Chinese state-owned company which built the controversial Hambantota port on the island.

PTI

Updated:July 3, 2018, 6:46 PM IST
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New York Times Says its Lanka Reporters Under Threat
(Photo: Reuters)
Colombo: The New York Times on Tuesday said that two of its correspondents in Sri Lanka have been threatened by the loyalists of the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa after it published an investigative report last week on China allegedly funding his 2015 election campaign.

The report alleged that Rajapakse's campaign took millions in bribes from a Chinese state-owned company which built the controversial Hambantota port on the island.

In a press statement, the NYT said that a group of Sri Lankan parliamentarians allied to Rajapaksa held a news conference recently to publicly criticise the two journalists who contributed logistical assistance to a rigorously reported and accurate investigation into the Hambantota port, published by it on June 26.

"It is unacceptable for journalists to be intimidated this way. This action appears intended to silence critics and curb press freedoms, and ultimately deprive Sri Lankans of information in the public interest," it added.

During the 2015 Sri Lankan elections, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund flowed directly to campaign aides and activities for Mr. Rajapaksa, who had agreed to Chinese terms at every turn and was seen as an important ally in China's efforts to tilt influence away from India in South Asia, the report had said.

Rajapaksa, who ruled the island nation for a decade from 2005 to 2015, had dismissed the report as false propaganda against him by the government.

If Mr Rajapaksa takes issue with Times reporting, we have encouraged him to contact senior editors at the New York Times rather than intimidating Sri Lankan journalists, the release issued by NYT International Editor Michael Slackman said and urged the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure safety of journalists working for NYT or any other news organisation.

Meanwhile, Rajapakse's son Namal, a lawmaker, came out in his support claiming that "at no time" his father intimidated the journalists.

"Just like the press has a right to criticise politicians, don't we also have the right to 'publicly criticise' reporting we believe to be faulty?" he tweeted. During Rajapaksa's decade-long rule, 17 journalists and media employees were reportedly murdered in the country.

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| Edited by: Padmaja Venkataraman
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