The CID yesterday questioned `Morning Leader` Editor Sonali Samarasinghe for more than five hours over a series of investigative reports she had written for `Sunday Leader` and `Irudina` newspapers. Her reports spotlighted directives by the Central Bank governor to stop the investigation into the activities of the controversial numismatics outfit GoldQuest.
Ms. Samarasinghe told Daily Mirror last night the CID team had come to the newspaper office around 9.30 am and the interrogation had gone on well past 2 p.m.
`The CID wanted me to tell the manner in which I conducted my investigations for my reports, the sources of my information and the officials that I spoke to and those who helped me to obtain documents that referred to the Central Bank governor`s directive` she said.
`We see this as part of the moves to intimidate media into silence and also posing threats of prosecution to public officials who provide information to the media,` the Morning Leader editor said.
When she refused to divulge these details, the CID officials warned they might have to take the matter to Magistrate courts.
Expressing grave concern over the questioning of Ms. Samarasinghe, the Free Media Movement (FMM) in a statement yesterday said it was disturbed by the manner in which the CID attempts to `encroach` and `seriously erode` media freedom.
`This is not the first occasion in which the Police have taken to questioning journalists for pursuing stories that are perceived by those in power to be off limits to media acting in the public interest. This is also not the first occasion that journalists have been intimidated by the Police with requests made to reveal their sources. Ms. Samarasinghe`s right to publish information as she sees fit in her capacity as a professional journalist, is no exception to the cardinal rule of the freedom of expression enjoyed by all citizens, a vital cornerstone in media freedom` FMM said.
`GoldQuest stands accused of operating a form of highly suspect pyramid-scheme in some of the world`s poorest countries. The company, which was based in Hong Kong, sold `commemorative` gold and silver coins and people were encouraged to gain commission by getting more people to sign up. In early May this year, the Jakarta Post in Indonesia reported that Quest International (QI) group Chief Executive Vijayeswaran Vijayaratnam, Director Joseph Bismark, and two other senior executives, Donna Marie Imson and Tagumpay Kintanar were arrested by the Indonesian police` the FMM statement said.