Appeal in ABC suspension case tomorrow
Asia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) network’s application to the Court of Appeal, against the suspension of broadcasts of five of its radio stations, would be taken up tomorrow.
Sun FM, Gold FM, Sha FM, Hiru FM and Suriyan FM coming under the ABC network were suspended with effect from last Thursday following a news broadcast that a group of villagers in Tissamaharama had gone to the Ranminitenna jungle to collect firewood and were confronted by LTTE cadres at around 6.30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The network said that the news had been broadcast following reports from provincial news correspondents that LTTE cadres had entered Ranminitenne, Tissamaharama and that villagers have been agitated. The newwork also said that on making inquiries from Army Media Spokesman Udaya Nayanayakara who had confirmed that he too had received such reports and security forces had been sent to the village to investigate. The Grama Niladhari has also confirmed he had received such reports.
Later as the report turned out to be incorrect, ABC network had apologised as soon as it discovered it was a false alarm.
At a press briefing held on Friday, Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said the Ministry Secretary had conducted necessary investigation following which, the ministry decided to suspend the licences of stations responsible for broadcasting the false news.
He said that the decision to recall the broadcasting licences followed the inquiry as the news had caused much agitation among people in Ranminitenna.
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Director General said a letter had been sent to ABC networks informing it of the withdrawal of the frequency licence as the validity of it depends on the broadcasting licence.
However, instead of suspending the stations responsible for the news broadcast, suspending all the radio stations belonging to the network, has been condemned by many media rights groups.
The Free Media Movement said it was deeply concerned about this drastic action by the Government not only because of what it indicates about the state of media freedom in this country, but also because of the impact such a sudden closure can have on the over 300 persons who are employed by the ABC radio network.
It said that ABC network promptly corrected its news story as soon as it was learnt that no such attack had transpired.“We also call on the Media and Information Ministry to adopt a more democratic and consultative stand in dealing with media personnel and institutions in the broader interests of democratic practice in Sri Lanka,” the statement said.
The FMM also urged media personnel and organizations to be more careful and sensitive in publicizing incidents without complete prior verification.
Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) condemned the action taken by the Government and called for the immediate reinstatement of the licence of the ABC network.“We regret that the ABC network did not take more care with its sources, but that should under no circumstances be used by the Government as a pretext for a form of censorship,” a statement issued by it said.