Frederica Janz was a controversial figure in the local media, and working with her as my editor was an educational experience. Here she is talking to Al-Jazeera on what is probably her first media appearance after being fired from The Sunday Leader and leaving the country.
The Sunday Leader may not have been perfect, I only joined after the war and was spared the trauma of Lasantha’s death, from which i am given to understand that the paper never recovered. But the Leader continued to be one big pain in the behind of the establishment.
It crossed lines that were only located on the distant, unvisited borders of other papers. It was kicked out of the country’s primary journalistic association. The Sunday Leader had its faults, it had a tendency to sensationalize things and its vitriol was often perceived as lacking in taste, but it asked the right questions, even thought it may not have always come up with the complete answers to those questions, these were questions that no one else dared to even think about.
The Leader was fearless but also a little reckless about the way it approached things. And I supposed its fast living finally caught up to it. Today the Leader is a shadow of its former self, though still trying to come out with hard hitting stories, thanks to a few reporters who are holding on, despite its ownership’s supposed vested interests to the contrary.
Journalistic stalwarts i know like to decry the Leader as being a ‘rag’. But in an age where most other papers are good for little else than wrapping your lunch packet after catching up with your daily dose of directly-observed reportage and classified ads (so_many classified ads), it offered excitement and a hint at what was really going down behind the scenes. Not that it mattered really.
It didn’t matter because the means for free expression were steadily closing down. The institutions by which free expression could be made use and put into action like the judiciary and the opposition had long since shut down. Free expression and the freedom of press was fast losing its currency, and its value to the general public has all but dissipated, replaced with state owned propaganda machines at one extreme, and sensational reports of crimes-and-other-shocking-goings-on to keep the public’s appetite for gore satiated at the other.
Investigative journalism that looks at the essence of what goes on behind the inner workings of the country has disappeared, along with many of the journalists who actually did the investigating. Today the press here has given up trying to be free. Like a caged animal finally come to terms with the boundaries of the rest of its life, it doesn’t even try to rebel, not even like an angry teenager, in a slightly immature way. In fact, it hardly pouts.