Ceylon Today is Sri Lanka’s newest newspaper, bankrolled by Tiran Alles, I think at least partly with Sarath Fonseka campaign funds. Recently the CT editor Lalith Alahakoon was fired, which is a pretty big deal. He was one of the founders behind the Daily Mirror and The Nation and they’ve sacked a very senior and respected journalist. Reportedly, a bunch of the news editors and staff walked out with him.
What I hear is that Alahakoon was fired for not toeing a certain editorial line. In my experience there’s often multiple dimensions to these things, but that’s what I hear.
I’ve never known quite what to make of Ceylon Today. It’s well funded and there’s a lot of good people working there – but it’s still kinda boring, and hideously designed. It’s supposedly affiliated with Sarath Fonseka, but it’s not really a mouthpiece either.
Now a lot of the good people have left and I’m even less inclined to pick it up. I just wonder what stories Alahakoon did or didn’t run to get him fired. Tiran Alles is a hustler all round and I don’t even know what line his editors are supposed to toe. Personally, I think the paper would be better if there wasn’t such a line at all.
Ah, here’s an update. DBS Jeyaraj has published a full statement from Alahakoon with all the deets.
Mr. Basnayake informed me that the management had decided to ask me to leave due to several reasons –
(a) My alleged association with Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP –(with whom I informed him I have not even had a conversation in the past year, but even if I was, as a journalist and an editor I do not see how this would constitute a wrongdoing)
(b) that I failed to greet Chairman Tiran Alles at a reception held at the Indian High Commissioner’s residence in Colombo and
(c) I failed to publish the unsubstantiated lead story by the Mawbima saying there would be a presidential election in 2013 and contradicted the story the next day. However on this point I clarified that the Ceylon Today story was related to the provincial council elections and not to the presidential elections. I also informed him that in any case the Mawbima lead story was inaccurate and had no legal basis in my opinion. In my experience, a newspaper cannot publish based on the sensational impact of a story alone, but must adhere to certain ethic codes and accuracy.
3. Mr. Basnayake then informed me that my editorial policy and the management’s editorial policy do not tally. I reminded him that when this newspaper was begun, Chairman Tiran Alles said Ceylon Today would be an independent and non-partisan newspaper – and even told the editorial team that they would not be required to publish stories praising him. However as time progressed, and subsequent to everything that has happened, the impression created is that the Chairman’s intention was to use me and my editorial team to specifically target and attack his political opponents.
I don’t suppose anyone uses a newspaper independently. It’s like giving someone cake and asking them not to have it. But in this case Tiran Alles was running a paper that some people had hoped (perhaps projected) would be a bit different from the usual partisan tomes. This latest shake-up shakes out a lot of talent, and leaves CT looking worse for wear.