Information Ministry Sec’s comment draws fire from media associationsView(s):
Four leading media rights organisations in the country have expressed shock and alarm at a comment made by the newly appointed Mass Media and Information Ministry Secretary Charitha Herath that the Government will not be introducing the Right to Information (RTI) legislation because it would compromise the country’s national security.
“We are both, shocked and alarmed that a public servant holding such a responsible position as Mr.Herath does, should make such an elementary blunder.
Even a cursory glance at the proposed RTI legislation for Sri Lanka approved by the Cabinet in 2004, later revised and re-drafted by the Ministry of Justice and proposed by the Law Commission as well as existing legislation all over the world would show that such a law specifically excludes all matters relating to national security and “sensitive information” the Ministry Secretary refers to. “This is a basic aspect of the RTI legislation”, the media organisation said in a statement issued this week.
The signatories to the joint statement are the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka and the Free Media Movement (FMM).
The statement was issued in reference to the front page story in The Island on July 30 under the headline “Government won’t introduce Right to Information Act at the expense of national security.”
Citing national security matters, the Secretary had stated that despite the conclusion of the armed conflict in May 2009, the Government couldn’t share ‘everything’ and further stated that ‘external elements’ can make use of the Act to obtain ‘sensitive information.’
Secretary Herath had made this remark while answering questions asked at a SAARC Media Internship program for journalists and media officials in Colombo last week. Visiting journalists had asked him why Sri Lanka does not have an RTI Act when other SAARC countries do.
The media organisations reiterated their call to the Government to introduce RTI legislation in Sri Lanka ‘without trotting out lame excuses’ and drawing ‘red herrings’. Over 100 democratic countries around the world, including most of South Asia, have empowered their citizens with such legislation and we see no reason for this Government not to do so likewise,” the statement added.
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