Facing flak over surge in attacks on the media, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has sought to allay fears, saying the fourth estate need not harbour any fears.
Citing that the country was passing through a critical time, Rajapaksa said the media institutions should act with "greatest responsibility" in reporting events.
His remarks made at an address to the heads of private and state media institutions at his residence last evening come when his government is being sought to put on dock because of recent killings of the editor of The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickremetunga and ransacking of a television station.
"The President said he invited the media heads to discuss the current situation especially in view of the reports he had received of the irresponsible nature of the reporting into the recent attack on MTV/Sirasa and the killing of Wickremetunga," a release from the President's office said.
Rajapaksa said that while politicians were free to make any statements about matters of public interest, the media had to ensure such issues were reported in proper context.
He appealed to the editors and media heads to let the police carry out proper investigations into the two incidents.
Rajapaksa said he regretted that some media institutions had mentioned the name of a certain officer of Intelligence Services in the current context, which had resulted in threats to this officer.
He said the media should be concerned about such consequences of their reports.
One arrest has already been made with regard to the MTV/ Sirisa attack, and it was most likely that others would follow soon, he said.
Contrary to some media reports the Government analyst had still not submitted the report on this attack, the President told the editors.
When asked about the government's position on threats to journalists, President Rajapaksa said he would give them the assurance that no journalist or media institution had cause to fear any threats or attacks by the Government.
The President said that at a time when the government was "high on popularity" due to the success of the "offensive against terrorism", it had no interest in losing this public acceptance by even an iota, by the attacks on media.
"The Government had no interest whatever in seeking disgrace through any attacks on the media," the release quoted the President as saying.
He also assured the media heads that the culprits would be captured and brought to justice.
Commenting on Wickremetunga's killing, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga had earlier this week asked the government to protect every citizen of the country.
"What is even more dangerous and frightening is that this is not the first time that the journalists have been threatened, killed or intimidated. And even democratic opponents, political opponents have been threatened. This has gone on for the last three years," Kumaratunga said.
"And I call upon the government of my party, led by my party to please do what is your duty, what is your responsibility to protect every citizen in this country", she said.
Media Need Not Fear Govt: Rajapaksa
TV Sriram, Colombo
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