Editors' Guild challenges Bar Association position
The Editors' Guild has challenged a Bar Association contention that its President's speech calling for the punishment of journalists, among others, for Contempt of Court has been endorsed by the council of the lawyers union.

The Bar Association secretary Ms. Anoma Goonetilleke, in a letter to the Secretary to the Editors' Guild Secretary Mohanlal Piyadasa this week claimed that the address of Bar Association (BASL) President Ikram Mohamed PC at the ceremonial sitting to welcome Justice S. Sri Skandarajah to the Court of Appeal referring to the press undermining the public's confidence in the judicial system by attacking judges has been "unanimously approved and adopted " by the Bar Council.

She had stated that a previous statement issued by the Editors' Guild saying those comments of the BASL President are probably Ikram Mohamed's personal views and do not reflect the views of the general membership is therefore incorrect.

In a reply to the BASL secretary, the Editors' Guild secretary has said that its "clear understanding " is that while there was a discussion at the Bar Council meeting on Mr. Mohamed's controversial speech, there was no resolution proposed or seconded, no notice of resolution given, no vote taken and therefore it was wrong to say that his speech was "unanimously approved and adopted".

In any event, the Guild secretary says that the Bar Council, while being a representative body of the BASL, does not form the "general membership" the Guild was referring to.

"We are not aware of the procedure followed at Bar Council meetings, but one would expect that at any properly conducted meeting, any matter that has been 'unanimously approved and adopted', would have been put to a proper vote; and that too, after a resolution was formerly proposed and seconded", the Guild letter stated.

The Guild has said that they cannot therefore accept the position of the BASL that Mr. Mohamed's comments were 'uanimously approved and adopted'. Meanwhile, the Guild has also told the BASL secretary that other issues raised in its statement condemning Mr. Mohamed's for his remarks calling for the punishment of journalists, among others, had been ignored, among them that the President of the BASL should put his own house in order before pontificating about other professions.

The Guild had drawn attention to a survey conducted by the Marga Institute on the subject of deteriorating public confidence in the judicial system - a subject which Mr. Mohamed also had referred to in his address. Extracts of the survey where lawyers were found fault with for instances of bribery, laws delays etc., were also cited.

The Guild has sent a copy of the submissions it made to the parliamentary select committee on a proposed Contempt of Court Act and urged the BASL to support these moves, while praising its members who have been in the forefront of civil liberties, human rights and freedom of expression in the country over the years.

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