Social media destroyed my image – President Maithripala
Social media was the deciding factor that elected me as the President and what ended my rule, former President Maithripala Sirisena said on Wednesday (10).
Sirisena made this observation at the opening ceremony of the media unit of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
Sirisena said the ‘Aragalaya’ which ousted a strong president should be taken as an example to show how powerful the media, especially the social media is.
“I once was the Polonnaruwa correspondent to Lake House. The nature of media has gone through serious changes during these fifty years. It is fair to wonder who actually rules the world, politicians or media? If you look at international media such as BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, they fight against powerful countries. If we look at the ‘Aragalaya’, was there a political leader for people to gather around? No. There were about thirty five youth groups but no one to lead. Hundred thousand people took to the streets as the request to do so came into their mobile phones. Media can make or break a government. They can project a good government as a bad one, and a bad government as a good one,” Sirisena observed.
“When I became the President in 2015,the main force behind me was social media. There were many organizations, political groups behind my election, however, social media played a vital role. Ironically, what broke me too was social media. It destroyed my image. It made me an unworthy person in the eyes of people. So, when we rule, we need to have a good understanding of democracy and media freedom. In my political career, I have never pressured the media. During my term as the president, I have never used force against the media, despite how it criticized me.” Sirisena pointed out.
The former President also pointed out that during his tenure no protesters were repressed or held at gunpoint or shot. “You already know how many journalists were killed, fled the country, disappeared, assaulted before the 2015 government. If someone vehemently criticized me, I would only inquire as to why they are doing it. I treated them with nothing but democracy. I remember when we had the SAITM issue, university students took to streets every day. The public was angered by the difficulties they had to face due to protests and they keep blaming me.
However, I ordered the IGP never to even take a gun to the protest sites. I never went beyond law. I never allowed even the underworld gang members in custody to be killed. I took a decision, as per the law, to give capital punishment to four underworld gang members who were drug dealing while being in the prison. My move was nothing but legal.” Sirisena noted.