President Mahinda Rajapaksa has reactivated the defunct Sri Lanka Press Council, with effect from June 1.
The sudden and unannounced move came with the appointment of members to sit on complaints against newspaper reports by the President’s secretary Lalith Weeratunga this week.
The controversial Press Council Act was introduced in 1973 after an aborted attempt in 1964 which saw the defeat of the then Sirima Bandaranaike government. The statutory council, which has powers to send journalists to jail, went into disuse in 2003 following the creation of the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka, a voluntary self-regulatory mechanism from within the newspaper industry.
Sri Lanka was the first South-Asian country to introduce self-regulation, with the broad support of the newspaper industry. A 11-member Dispute Resolution Council, chaired by former Secretary General of Parliament Sam Wijesinha, has sat on public complaints against press reports since 2003.
The government nominees to the reactivated Sri Lanka Press Council are: Professor Somaratne Balasuriya (chairman); Prof. Sunanda Mahendra; Janadasa Peiris, former director-general media, Presidential Secretariat; Ariyananda Dombagahawatta, editor, Iridha Lankadeepa; and Anusha Palpita, director-general, Government Information Department.