NYT raises concern for safety of Sri Lanka reporters
ECONOMYNEXT – The New York Times today expressed concern for the safety of two journalists who contributed to a report alleging Chinese slush money funding Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-election bid at the 2015 presidential vote.
The New York-based newspaper said two Sri Lankans journalists who provided logistical support to a visiting correspondent earlier this year were being publicly criticised and intimidated by legislators linked to Rajapaksa.
"The Times expects the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure the safety of journalists working for our — or any — news organisation," the paper said in a statement.
In an extensive report into the alleged Rajapaksa-era corruption, the NYT said the Chinese state-owned China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) paid $7.6 million to finance Rajapaksa’s failed re-election bid.
The report alleged that the former regime took massive loans for unproductive infrastructure. The new government was unable to pay back the debts and ended up leasing the loss-making Hambantota port to another Chinese company.
The author and the two Sri Lankans who contributed to the report have been lambasted in social media. The former president has denied he received campaign funding from the Chinese and accused the newspaper of a smear campaign against.
His loyalists have unleashed a virulent social media campaign against the reporters. The Chinese embassy in Colombo has denied the NYT report saying it was "full of political prejudice.”
The Sri Lankan government is yet to respond, but several ministers have thanked the NYT to reviving a case that been dormant. (COLOMBO, July 3, 2018)