The Government yesterday, September 28, denounced the move to summon several print media journalists to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) with regard to their reporting over an ongoing police investigation in relation to an alleged garlic scam at Lak Sathosa.
Media Minister Dallas Alahapperuma said that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had informed the relevant officials at the CID that journalists should not be summoned to the CID over this incident.
Speaking at the weekly Cabinet media briefing at the Government Information Department, Co-Cabinet Spokesman Mass Media Minister Alahapperuma said the Government cannot condone such acts. The Government is committed to ensure media freedom.
“We regret the incident. It should not have happened,” he said. Minister Alahapperuma said Trade Minister Dr.Bandula Gunawardena had lodged a complaint with the CID pertaining to the incident. He said Minister Gunawardena has however not named any media institution(s) or journalist(s) in his complaint to the CID.
Minister Alahapperuma said, “Some journalists, including the editors of several newspapers, had been summoned by the CID. We apologize to the journalists who were subject to the questioning. Public Security Minister Dr. Sarath Weerasekara has reassured us that journalists will not be questioned over this matter”.
The CID had summoned the journalists after Minister Dr. Gunawardena had complained over several comments made by a former Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Director criticising the Minister over the recent Sathosa garlic scam.
Four officials of the state-owned enterprise Lanka Sathosa were suspended after they were found to be involved in selling imported Garlic for a lesser price to third-party sellers. The officials were found following a tip-off by an employee of the Lanka Sathosa, who had noticed false entries in the institution’s logbook used to clear containers of imported essential items.
A Police investigation is underway into the racket.