Media groups want reforms implemented
Nine main media organisations have called on the Government to take into consideration recommendations made previously in preparing the proposed National Media Policy and take immediate steps to create the proper environment to ensure a free, responsible and vibrant media.
The statement issued by the Free Media Movement, the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, The Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, the Tamil Media Alliance, SAFMA Sri Lanka Chapter and the Sri Lanka Press Institute follows:
“We welcome the Government’s recently announced initiative to establish the enabling structures and a culture for media freedom and social responsibility.
“It is our collective opinion that the responsibility of the State is to ensure an environment where the freedom of expression is guaranteed. In order to achieve this we feel it is the duty of the State to create the proper legal framework that guarantees these rights and also safeguards the people’s right to information.1
“For its part, the Media should be bound by Codes of Practice which will ensure ethical and professional conduct of all media practitioners. These Codes are best formulated and agreed upon by Media Practitioners themselves. Regional and international experience has taught us that these Codes are best practiced when they are self-regulated.
“Attempts by governments to impose ethical guidelines on the media in a democratic State go against international practice and the very spirit of the freedom of expression. We, the undersigned will strongly oppose such attempts to bring in guidelines which are backed by punitive laws, under any pretext.
“This is also the time to reiterate that we oppose the imposition of strictures on the media through the Regulation Emergency (Prevention and Prohibition of Terrorism and specified Terrorist Activities) Regulations No. 07 issued on the 6th of December 2006.
“In the past decade or so there has been an impressive body of work done in Sri Lanka recommending positive changes to the overall media landscape. We call upon the Government to refer to recommendations contained in these reports.
“Some of the documents containing these recommendations are as follows:
1.The R.K.W. Gunasekara report on media law reform in Sri Lanka (1995)
2.The Sidath Sri Nandalochana Committee on broad basing ANCL
3.The Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility of 1998 signed by the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka and the Free Media Movement.
4.The media charter of 2005 of SLWJA, FMM. FMETU, SLTMA and SLMMF.
“Therefore, we propose to the Government that it should immediately implement the following to create the proper environment so that a free, responsible and vibrant media that will serve the people will flourish in Sri Lanka:
1. Enact the proposed Right to Information Bill which has been approved by Cabinet and drafted in consultation with the Media.
2. Amend the existing laws to transform the State owned electronic media - Rupavahini, SLBC, ITN and Lakhanda into genuinely independent Public Service Broadcasters.
3. Broad base the ownership of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., in accordance with the spirit with which it was vested in the State and ensures its editorial independence.
4. Revive the All Party Lakshman Kadirgamar Parliamentary Select Committee with a view to bringing in a Contempt of Court Act on the lines of a similar Law in the UK and India.
5. Amend the Parliamentary (Powers and Privileges) Act as asked for in the Colombo Declaration.”