The BBC World Service accepts that some of its Sinhala Section journalists have breached journalistic ethics and violated BBC’s code of conduct by applying for interest free vehicle loans offered by the Sri Lankan Government. The BBC has also stated that the staff in breach of the code would be sent for retraining.
The Colombo Telegraph exposed the applications made by two BBC World Service journalists to the Sri Lankan government to obtain interest-free loans. After a series of exposures about the serious conflict of interest issues and violations of standard journalistic ethics, a public-spirited individual made a complaint to the BBC. The BBC initially responded with a rejection of an inquiry on the basis that their employees had not in fact accepted the loans. This ridiculous response was quite rightly appealed, and last week the BBC has accepted that the complaint in fact raised a serious breach by its staff of the BBC code of conduct for its employees.
Two of its journalists, BBC World Service producer Chandana Keerthi Bandara and the Colombo Reporter Elmo Fernando. applied Rs. 1,200,000/-each by way of interest free loans from the state banks to purchase cars or vans, where the interest will be paid by the Treasury using tax payer money.
In a letter dated February 25, 2013 the BBC says; “The applications for the loans were reviewed and it was made clear to staff that it was not appropriate to have applied for them. All staff in question have been reminded of the BBC Conflict of Interest Guidelines and are re-doing the BBC’s
training course on this subject.” ( Read letter below)
Responding to the complainant, British journalist, Dushy Ranetunge. on February 11, 2013, BBC forwarded a letter by its Sinhala Service Editor Priyath Liyanage. which says, “BBC Sinhala member of staff Chandana Bandara was one of the hundreds who applied. From what he had told me, that his application had been successful… However, after careful consideration, the employee had decided not to go through with the application and accept the loan… Under these circumstances, I do not see the need for an investigation at present.”
Forwarding Liyange’s letter Dejan Calovski, BBC World Service, Audience Relations said, ‘I hope the above allays the concerns you have raised and thank you for taking the time, and making the effort, to write.’
Responding to the above letter the complainant said; “I wish to refer my complaint to stage 2, as I feel that your response does not address my concerns, especially when Mr Priyath Liyanage himself, who has responded to my complaint has been involved in this process, by issuing letters in support of these applications to secure the inducements/bribes. There is no such thing called an interest free loan. The Sri Lankan tax payers have to subsidise these inducements, which the government of Sri Lankan is offering to Journalists, clearly with the motive of influencing them. These loans have to be approved and it is unlikely that they will be approved for journalists who are critical of the regime.’
According to the Colombo Telegraph sources the inquiry has not yet been concluded.