Labour Tribunal of Kalutara, Sri Lanka has ruled that the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) decision to prematurely terminate the contract of top journalist Azzam Ameen was ‘unreasonable and unjustifiable’.

Having delivered the Order on 26th April, 2024, the Labour Tribunal also found that the actions of the BBC, particularly of the BBC’s representative Iain Haddow, were arbitrary and high-handed.

Ruling against the BBC, the Labour tribunal also ordered the British media house to pay compensation to journalist Azzam Ameen, which amounts to the equivalent of 10 months of the salary drawn by the journalist at the time of his termination of contract.

The ruling comes in connection to the case filed by Azzam Ameen on the BBC’s decision to terminate his contract over a leaked, distorted voice recording, alleged to have been a phone call with politician Ranjan Ramanayake.

The BBC had taken action to terminate the contract of Azzam Ameen based on the press statatments made by the ‘Sinhale Movement’ and Viyathmaga organization, which had questioned the integrity and independence of the media corporation.

Sri Lankan journalist Azzam Ameen’s lawyers argued in the Labour Tribunal that the BBC’s decision to prematurely terminate his contract was unjustifiable.

Delivering the Order, the Honourable President of the Labour Tribunal of Kalutara Mrs. Alanka D. Anthony had stated that the evidence placed before the Tribunal indicates that the journalist had an unblemished service record under the BBC for the last ten years, adding “The Applicant has been terminated without being afforded an opportunity to show cause for the misconduct alleged.”

Concerning the incident involving politician Ranjan Ramanayake, pertaining to an allegedly distorted private conversation being publicized on social media, Azzam Ameen’s lawyers argued that the journalist had not carried out any news coverage violating the BBC’s guidelines and he had also not conducted any interviews with the said politician during the relevant time.

The Tribunal found that the BBC was well aware that the journalist was engaging in conversations with politicians and was doing so in performing his duties for the media corporation.

“The Applicant has testified that, as a journalist he had to hold discussion with various politicians to obtain sources of information. Under cross examination, the Respondent admitted that the Applicant during his employment with the BBC had been covering political reporting and a political reporter would necessarily have to tap and draw from political sources in news reporting. It is therefore, very clear that the Applicant engaged in conversations of nature with politicians and the Respondent was very well aware that he was doing so in performing his duties under the Respondent Corporation,” the President of the Labour Tribunal had pointed out.

The Labour Tribunal was further informed that the journalist was targeted and his contract was terminated mainly due to the backlash the BBC faced over several media coverages, specifically on the 2019 Easter attacks and subsequent Presidential Election, which were news reports Azzam Ameen had no connection to.

Notifying the court that these articles and some BBC World News coverage had come under scrutiny of the public at this period of time, the journalist’s lawyers pointed out that the articles had no connection to nor any input from Azzam Ameen.

While giving evidence, BBC’s representative Iain Haddow also acknowledged that Azzam Ameen had no relation to the news articles that had faced backlash and were questioned by the public, while also revealing that the articles had been authored by BBC London representatives.

The Labour Tribunal was also satisfied with the evidence produced, that the journalist had been subjected to unfair treatment by the BBC’s representative Iain Haddow, who had accepted his mistakes, such as intruding and changing the private social media handle of Azzam Ameen, which he was later compelled to restore to its original status after the BBC’s higher authorities were informed in that regard.

Although the journalist had also prayed for his reinstatement with back wages, the Honourable President of the Labour Tribunal of Kalutara was of the view that, as the ‘Sinhala Sevaya’ of the BBC where the journalist was employed had been shut down, reinstatement was neither possible nor practical.

However, the Honourable President of the Labour Tribunal of Kalutara ordered that compensation be awarded for the unjust termination of Azzam Ameen’s employment by the BBC for his service spanning between 10 years from 2010 to 2020.

Azzam Ameen was represented by Jagath Wickramanayake, President’s Counsel, along with Attorneys-at-Law Migara Doss and Harshana M. de Silva.



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