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Civil society, media activists up in arms over proposed Regulatory Act “aimed at suppressing media”

Civil society, media activists up in arms over proposed Regulatory Act “aimed at suppressing media”

Written by Keshala Dias

30 Aug, 2017 | 9:49 pm

News1st has continued to uphold the public’s right to know.

In the recent past we continuously reported on a proposed statute that threatened to imprison journalists and subject them to fines.Civil society and media activists cautioned against the proposed purported Independent Council for News, Media Standards Act being brought in through the back door.

On previous occasions too, attempts were made to stifle and suppress the media through the 19th Amendment First Draft, which was later defeated.

Lasantha Ruhunage (Chairman – Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association):

[quote]During the cabinet media briefing, the Director General of Government Information says he has no involvement in the Media Bill ,when journalists question him about it. He said that this was created by journalist groups and we provided the facilities at the Government Information Department. He also mentioned some names. However, the truth slipped out, when journalists asked who created this Bill, he put it on journalist groups. But he later says that the Prime Minister had given a campaign promise about bringing such legislation. We are not aware of any election manifesto of the UNP or the SLFP having such a promise. This clearly shows that the Prime Minister had given him a contract to fool the journalist groups and fulfill their hidden agendas. How can they inquire into our opinion on a document that we have no idea about. The people need to know about this document before they give their opinion. Dr. Pradeep Weerasekara who is taking this around the country says that sources of journalists should be revealed. Tthe concept note on this was published by the Director General of Government Information on behalf of the Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media. According to the administrative laws of the country, the duties of the Secretary can be borne only by the Additional Secretary, a Senior Assistant Secretary or an Assistant Secretary, not a department head. This itself is illegal. This process is taking place in an illegal manner.[/quote]

C. Dodawatte (Convener – Free Media Movement):

[quote]The Chairman of the Committee will be appointed based on the recommendations of the Bar Association. Someone like a retired judge. The Bar Association is attempting to take action against Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake for some of his comments. The Bar Association believes that his comments were in contempt of court. If you look at this from the eyes of a journalist, we see this as his right to expression or free speech. How can this be challenged? If the head is not someone involved in Media, how will this effect the regulation process.[/quote]

Dharmasiri Lankapeeli (Secretary – Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions):

[quote]As organisations we are not prepared to accept government regulation. When Ranga was appointed as the Director General of Government Information, we were first invited to attend a discussion on media affairs and the issues of journalists. By the second or third time we went to meet them it became very clear to us what their plan was. As Wijeyananda Jayaweera clearly mentioned they have a structure that they have already created, they just want us to endorse it.[/quote]

We stand in agreement with the revelations made by these journalist associations.

We emphasise that we will always stand on behalf of the people’s right to information.

Whether there are elections or not, we will not falter in exposing fraud, corruption and malpractices as the public has a right to make an informed decision.

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