The Sri Lanka media were blocked from live proceedings of the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) on May 29, which was probing the Easter Sunday attacks. Initially, the PSC had agreed to open the proceedings to the media as it met to probe the Easter Sunday attacks, in which 258 people were killed on April 21. The proceedings were open to the public and being broadcast on PEO TV, however the live telecast was suspended. Reports suggested that suspension was due to political interference.
Newsrooms of the state-owned media in Sri Lanka were targeted and editorial staff harassed following the controversial appointment of former president Mahinda Rajapaksha as the new Prime Minister by President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26, 2018” “After Mahinda Rajapaksha was sworn-in on October 26, members of the unions loyal to Rajapaksha’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) [union] moved in to take control of state-owned institutions. Senior editorial staff at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), the Independent Television Network (ITN), the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL) kept away from the offices.
According to reports, a group of SLPP loyalists within ANCL barged into the layout section of the Daily News on the night of October 26 and changed the layout [of the front page, to remove reports of violence] telling [sic] that they were acting under orders from the PM’s office. Similarly, the staff at the Sunday Observer, were pressured to publish a story of Rajapaksa being sworn in, and warned not to report any stories regarding Wickremesinghe. Senior journalists at the paper had tweeted protest against it.
At ITN, several journalists were also forced out. Subash Jayawardena, ITN’s Deputy General Manager (DGM) – News and Current Affairs, told the Sunday Times: “I was warned to leave… As we were leaving in the office vehicle, we were stopped at the gate by Rajapaksa supporters who ordered us out of the vehicle, shouting that our time was done. However, some other ITN staff members intervened and they managed to help us leave the premises safely.”
The government announced appointments of new acting chairs at state media institutions, including Wasanthapriya Ramanayake at the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL), Dr. Somarathna Dissanayake at ITN and Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and Sarath Kongahage at Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC). According to Daily FT, the broadcast of Sri Lanka Rupavahini was also halted after being commandeered by a Rajapaska-aligned group.