Frederica Jansz

Frederica Jansz is a Sri Lankan journalist and former editor of The Sunday Leader.

Frederica Jansz
NationalitySri Lanka
RelativesJacqueline Fernandez (cousin)[1]

During her time at newspaper she was highly critical of Sri Lanka's government. Her predecessor Lasantha Wickrematunge had been assassinated, and Jansz was subject to frequent intimidation and harassment and to acts of arson and numerous death threats.[2]

After being dismissed from her position at the newspaper in September 2012 by its new, government-friendly owner, Jansz emigrated to the US, where she now lives.

Personal lifeEdit

Jansz is a Burgher of Dutch origin and is the cousin of Jacqueline Fernandez and the sister-in-law of Jatin Rungta.[1] She has two children.[3][4]

Media and journalismEdit

Jansz "began her career as a war reporter for Visnews, the television arm of Reuters, during the Sri Lankan Civil War." She conducted interviews with government soldiers and guerilla forces, and also served as an investigative journalist covering the Sri Lankan parliament. "As one of the only female journalists in Sri Lanka, she established herself as a respected political reporter and became the anchor of a morning news TV show."[5]

The Sunday LeaderEdit

She joined The Sunday Leader, which has been described as a “politically fueled investigative newspaper”[5] and as Sri Lanka’s “lone independent voice,” in 1994,[6] and was asked by Lal Wickrematunge to become its editor in January 2009 following the assassination of editor-in-chief Lasantha Wickrematunge, under whom she had trained.[7] Wickrematunge "was ambushed by men on motorbikes who shot him through the head."[8] Like Wickrematunge, Jansz received threats due to her work, including death threats.[9][10][11] She has stated that she began receiving these threats shortly after becoming editor. "I received one letter in red ink, saying 'I will chop you up if you don't stop writing this,'" she told the Telegraph. The handwriting was the same as in a threatening letter that had been sent to Lasantha three weeks before his murder.[8]

On 22 October 2009 Jansz and News Editor Munza Mushtaq were sent hand written death threats through the post.[9][12] "We will slice you up if you do not stop your writing," the letters threatened. Jansz told Reporters Without Borders that Wickrematunge had received the same letter which his secretary had filed away. Jansz said the letters were compared by a graphologist, who confirmed that all three were written by the same person. Jansz said the letters were compared by a graphologist who confirmed all three letters were authored by the same palm[13] In October 2010 the Sri Lanka Guardian magazine reported that Sri Lankan military intelligence was plotting to assassinate Jansz.[14] Jansz was threatened and insulted by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a phone call on 6 July 2012.[15][16] According to Jansz the Defence Secretary said "Yes I threatened you. Your type of journalists are pigs who eat shit!...I will put you in jail!... People will kill you!!! People hate you!!!".[17][18]

At the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, in 2009, Jansz wrote an article suggesting that Sri Lanka's defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, "shared a similar psychological profile to that of the leader of the Tigers (a sworn enemy)."[19] In the winter of 2010, “Jansz interviewed the opposition candidate” in the presidential elections, “a former army commander in the Sri Lankan army,” who confirmed rumours “that the army had shot a group of Tamil Tiger rebel leaders as they attempted to surrender at the end of the war.” When Jansz ran the story, it led to the opposition’s election loss, thus making the newspaper “an enemy out of both the government and the opposition.”[19]

In 2012, Jansz learned that Rajapaksa had arranged for Sri Lankan Airlines to bump a flightload of passengers to transport a puppy from Switzerland to Sri Lanka for his wife.[5] When Jansz called for his comment he said angrily: “If you and I were at the same function together and I were to point you out…90 percent of people there would want to see you dead…they will kill you.”[19][20] She printed the full transcript of his tirade under the headline “Gota Goes Berserk.”[8] Jansz said that the article caused “a huge backlash against him” for which he reportedly “would never forgive” her. “People were saying there was a good chance I was going to go the same way as Lasantha had. The writing was on the wall.”[8] After she ran the story, she “was followed by motorbikes” and “received death threats.”[19] The groups Article 19 and PEN International expressed concern for her safety and called for an investigation into the threats.[21]


In September 2012, Asanga Seneviratne, an ally of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, bought a 72% stake in The Sunday Leader and its sister newspaper, Iruresa.[22][23] He bought the paper with financial help from the government.[8] According to Jansz, Seneviratne asked her stop publishing articles critical of the Sri Lankan government and the Rajapaksa family.[22][23] She refused and on 21 September 2012 she was sacked as editor.[23][24] She was replaced by Sakuntala Perera.[25][26] "The new management appointed a new editor even as I was sitting in the office," Jansz said in July 2013.[27] Seneviratne disputed Jansz’s account of her dismissal.[23]

According to Jansz, Seneviratne asked her stop publishing articles critical of the Sri Lankan government and the Rajapaksa family. She refused and on 21 September 2012 she was sacked as editor.[22][23] She was replaced by Sakuntala Perera as editor of The Sunday Leader.[28] Seneviratne denies Jansz claims.[23]

Resettlement in USEdit

Prior to her sacking, Jansz had applied via the Australian High Commission in Colombo for a humanitarian visa to resettle in Australia citing death threats.[29] Her application was turned down in October 2012[30][31] "on the grounds that she was not out of Sri Lanka at the time of making the claim."[32] The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, however, “befriended Jansz and gave her and her sons entry into the United States.”[5] Issued a US visa, she and her two sons arrived in Seattle in October 2012. She applied for asylum and settled in Puyallup, Washington, where she found a job working in interior design.[19] She chose Washington State because of its proximity to Canada, where she has a cousin.[5] She is currently studying for a degree in interior design and "starting from scratch – all over again."[8]

In November 2012 she said that she would never return to Sri Lanka. "There's no going back for me, absolutely not. I feel lucky that I got out of this alive."[20] In June 2013 Jansz said that it gave her "terrible pain" to think about Sri Lanka. "It's the mundane things that I miss—I dream of this one sandy, gravel road in Sri Lanka. I desperately miss my home. I loved my country and I never wanted to leave, but I had to force myself to put it all behind me….As long as I look back, I cannot move forward. And every day, I get a little stronger."[5]

Jansz is scheduled to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum in May 2014.[33]

Honors and awardsEdit

Jansz won the Editor's Guild of Sri Lanka Journalist of the Year Award in 2004.[34]


  1. ^ a b Gayathry (19 February 2012). "Sri Lanka's Missing:Where are they?". Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  2. ^ "Frederica Jansz sacked". TamilNet. 22 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Australia turns down Frederica's resettlement application". Sunday Island. 7 October 2012. Archived from the original on 19 February 2013.
  4. ^ Hardy, Michael (2 March 2011). "Sri Lanka: Living Dangerously". The American Scholar. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Padgett, Lauren (24 June 2013). "Internationally Renowned Journalist Struggles to Find Work in Puyallup". puyallup patch.
  6. ^ Westhead, Rick (13 July 2012). "Sri Lanka: Tip about a puppy and a plane has political edge for Sunday Leader journalist". Toronto Star.
  7. ^ "Frederica Jansz sacked from editor post". Adaderana. 21 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Blair, David (18 October 2013). "Sri Lanka: the newspaper editor who was murdered and his successor who was threatened". The Telegraph.
  9. ^ a b "Sri Lanka editors receive death threats for Channel-4 video comments". TamilNet. 27 October 2009.
  10. ^ Reddy, B. Muralidhar (27 October 2009). "Sri Lankan Editors receive threats". The Hindu.
  11. ^ Weiss, Gordon (May 2012). The cage : the fight for Sri Lanka and the last days of the Tamil Tigers. London: Vintage. p. 150. ISBN 9780099548478.
  12. ^ "And now they come for us". The Sunday Leader. 24 October 2009. Archived from the original on 19 February 2013.
  13. ^ "New threats to privately-owned print media". Reporters Without Borders. 26 October 2009. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013.
  14. ^ "Plot to kill the editor of the Sunday Leader". Sri Lanka Guardian. 7 October 2010.
  15. ^ "Interview with editor who was threatened by defence secretary". Reporters Without Borders. 12 July 2012. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013.
  16. ^ Pidd, Helen (12 July 2012). "Sri Lankan journalists protest against state media suppression". The Guardian.
  17. ^ Jansz, Frederica (8 July 2012). "Gota Goes Berserk". The Sunday Leader. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  18. ^ Saravanamuttu, Paikiasothy (12 July 2012). "Gotabaya Rajapaksa: Too full with Power to Exercise it?". The Daily Mirror. Archived from the original on 21 February 2013.
  19. ^ a b c d e Stuteville, Sarah (5 July 2013). "Journalist flees Sri Lanka media crackdown, seeks safety in Northwest". Seattle Globalist.
  20. ^ a b Doherty, Ben (10 November 2012). "Editor flees Sri Lanka after fearing for her life". Sydney Morning Herald.
  21. ^ "Promoting freedom of expression and literature". 23 July 2021.
  22. ^ a b c Haviland, Charles (21 September 2012). "Sri Lanka Sunday Leader editor Frederica Jansz sacked". BBC News.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Doherty, Ben (6 October 2012). "Australia denies asylum to Sri Lankan editor facing government death threats". The Age.
  24. ^ Pathirana, Saroj (14 April 2012). "Senior rugby players avoid national team". BBC Sinhala.
  25. ^ "The Office Bearers". Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  26. ^ "Ex Co Members". Sri Lanka Cricket. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012.
  27. ^ "Boston Lanka With Frederica Jansz". Boston Lanka. 10 July 2013. Archived from the original on 20 August 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  28. ^ "Frede Out And Saku In – Frederica Is Sacked, Not Resigned". Colombo Telegraph. 21 September 2012.
  29. ^ Doherty, Ben (6 October 2012). "Case dismissed: death threats not persecution". The Age.
  30. ^ "Sacked SL editor says Oz asylum denied due to her lack of info". The Indian Express. 6 October 2012.
  31. ^ Obeyesekere, Srian (7 October 2012). "Federica Rejected". The Nation. Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  32. ^ "Australia denies asylum for Sri Lanka editor Frederica Jansz". 5 October 2012.
  33. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ Shetty, Kavitha (2006). Changes and challenges: women in newspapers in South Asia. Nanyang Technological University. p. 170. ISBN 9789971905996.
Media offices
Preceded by Editor of The Sunday Leader
Succeeded by
Sakuntala Perera