Suppressing Media Freedom: A response from the govt

Suppressing Media Freedom: A response from the govt

Written by Lahiru Fernando

09 Jul, 2017 | 10:43 pm

Prior to the recent cabinet shuffle, it was Gayantha Karunathilaka who served as the Minister of Mass Media. News 1st made inquiries from  Minister Karunathilaka on the “Independent Council for News Media Standards Act” draft bill.

Responding to our inquiries at a media briefing, the Minister stated that he did not present a document to Cabinet during his tenure imposing punishments, restrictions or influence on the media.

The Minister also said he wants to make it clear that “President, Prime Minister nor the government intends to do anything which penalises, restricts or influences media freedom in any way.”

He recalled issuing a cabinet paper on appointing an independent regulatory commission for electronic media in August 2016. However, the minister pointed out that its intention was not in any way to influence, punish or affect media freedom.

“It only contains the factor of raising the standards. It was also discussed at that point that the government does not intend on passing any law by force. It was made clear that these matters should be carried out independently. It was also decided that this should be done in consultation with the public, media organizations and media heads and in a way that we can come to a consensus”, said the minister.

The document

The “Independent Council for News Media Standards Act”, proposes a council for news media and that it should be headed by a lawyer or a retired judge.

According to the document, the Council has provisions to impose fines and prison sentences to media institutions and journalists.

The point in this document, which draws the highest level of concern, is that the news media, is bound to reveal any source before this council.

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