By Chathuri Dissanayake
Welcoming the decision of government to the set up a Cabinet sub committee to look into grievances faced by media personnel, many media organisations were of the opinion the sub committee will have to prove its credibility through its actions.
The committee which opened its office at the BMICH on the 24th of this month was set up by the President and comprises Dr. Sarath Amunugama (Chairman) , Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Dallas Allahaperuma, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Lakshman Yapa Abewardana, Rohitha Abeygunawardana, and Faizer Musthapha.
Sunanda Deshapriya, spokesperson of the Free Media Movement said it was a positive move but the committee would have to prove its worth through its actions if it was to be taken seriously by the media community.
“It is a positive step taken by the government. But it will have to prove it has a genuine commitment towards the cause. We have seen committees being set up in the past but with no results.
For example the committee set up to inquire into the case of Dr. Mervyn Silva and the Rupavahini Corporation incident was supposed to submit its report within two weeks. Six months have passed with no report. We do not need a similar committee”, he said.
According to Mr. Deshapriya the committee is yet to publish its mandate and formally inform media organisations of it rules of procedure. “The committee has not informed us formally of their plans. We are waiting till they publish the mandate to make formal complaints. We will submit a list of complaints that has to be inquired into immediately”, he said.
The office with officers representing all ethnic groups will be open from 8.00 am to 12.00 noon daily. A police unit headed by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) will be on duty to enable the committee to take action on any problem faced by journalists or a media organisations immediately.
The committee was set up with the aim of:
(a) bridging the gap between media and the government,
(b) to ensure the independence of media organisations and
(c) to inquire into and take action on threats posed to journalists.
Minister Dallas Allahaperuma who was present at the ceremony said this was the first time such a committee had been set up to enquire into problems faced by journalists or media organisations. “We may not have past experience in establishing such a committee, but do not consider the committee lightly. Anyone is welcome to look at us suspiciously because this will make us be vigilant about our actions.
The President set up this committee not to run away from problems but to address them”, he said.
He claimed the main concern of media organisations was the personal security of journalists and the committee had a responsibility towards to safe guarding these interests. He emphasised the committee would not hinder the activities of any media organisations in any way.