"Revealing Government Propaganda Editor Was Behind NY Times Saga Is Not Intimidation:" MR's Media Secretary

Vehemently denying the New York editorial team's allegation on intimidating Sri Lankan journalists by opposition lawmakers, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Media Secretary Rohan Welivita today said revealing that the government propaganda newspaper ( Sunday Observer) editor was behind the news item slandering the former President was not act of intimidation. 

"The allegation that a Chinese company funded the election campaign first appeared in the state -run Daily News in 2015. The New York Times has re-published the same false story and the state propaganda newspaper Editor Dharisha Bastians is behind the whole exercise. This was revealed by one of opposition lawmakers at a press conference as it was important for the public to know the 'machinery' behind the smear campaign," Welivita said, in a press statement this evening. 

Welivita also said the New York Times had failed to carry the clarification sent by MP Namal Rajapaksa last Saturday (30). 

The former President's Media Secretary said the current government, as it came to power in January 2015, tried its best to find irregular financial transactions between members of the previous administration and Chinese companies operating in Sri Lanka. 

"They decided  to continue with Chinese-funded projects as they could not trace any irregularity. This shows there has not been any underhand deal between the previous government and the China Harbour company handling the Colombo Port City construction," he added. 

Asian Mirror also sent a query to New York Times on Saturday (June 30) questioning the rationale behind using a member of the current Sri Lankan government's propaganda machinery as a contributor to the story. Bastians was appointed the Editor of the Sunday Observer by the politically appointed management of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, the state newspaper company of Sri Lanka. 

Asian Mirror asked, "We are aware the New York Times adopts a strict ethical framework when producing content, but questions have been raised if these were adhered to when the aforesaid article was being produced. According to the article, one of its contributors is Dharisha Bastians, who currently holds a position with the Sri Lankan government propaganda machinery - she is the editor of the government's propaganda newspaper 'The Sunday Observer', and was hired by a politically appointed management of the state newspaper company. Concerns have been raised in certain quarters that her association with the current government has allowed her to manipulate and influence certain aspects of the information given to the author of the article. We would like to know if the editorial team of the New York Times, which typically followed strict guidelines and processes when vetting staff, was aware of the fact that Ms. Bastians is employed by the state propaganda machinery when soliciting information from her, and would like to know if the NYT would like to comment on the political affiliation of a reporter paid for by the organisation?"

The New York Times has avoided answering Asian Mirror's question thus far.

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