NGO proposes council to imprison and fine journalists

NGO proposes council to imprison and fine journalists

NGO proposes council to imprison and fine journalists

Written by Staff Writer

17 Jul, 2018 | 2:22 am

Colombo (News1st) : Several non-government organizations are continuing their attempts to introduce laws that will enable the imprison and fine journalists. Working together with several foreign NGOs, this effort is being spearheaded by the National Secretariat for Media Reforms or NSMR.

While the President and Prime Minister of the country have continuously reiterated their commitment to media freedom, what is happening today is completely contrary to this. After we exposed before the judiciary, the sections of the 19th Amendment that would have enabled the imprisonment and oppression of journalists, these sections were removed.

However, once again, the oppression of the media has come to fore wearing a new mask.

A document bearing the title independent news media standards council was recently drafted through the National Secretariat for Media Reforms established in 2015, by the former Director General of the Government Information Department Ranga Kalansooriya, Dr. Pradeep Weerasinghe and a foreign national by the name of Toby Mendel.

Amidst the continuing criticism of this endeavor Toby Mendel eventually abandoned the endeavor, however, this project has come to the fore once again with several amendments. This time around, the media oppression project is being headed by the International Research and Exchanges Board or IREX, a foreign NGO.

A person by the name of Matthew Shelley is acting as a key contributor while Dr. Pradeep Weerasinghe is the executive director of this project. Dr. Weerasinghe had been suspended on a sexual assault charge when he was a staff member at the Sripali Campus of the Colombo University.

The draft compiled by these individuals with the cooperation of the USAID titled the Independent Council for NEWS MEDIA STANDARDS ACT includes several serious points.

The draft suggests the establishment of an Independent Council for News Media Standards. In addition to providing guidelines, the draft also says that this council has the authority to control the way the news is reported in the country.

Statement 35/3/a  of the draft states that the council has the authority to set the codes of practice for news media and approve it in a short span of time. The council also has the power to investigate the complaints that is received as well the authority to make decisions regarding them.

The news media employees are legally bound to provide any detail required by the council while not carrying out an order or failing to appear when summoned by the council will be considered as contempt of court and a case can be filed at the supreme court.

A journalist or journalists who provides false information to the council or who fails to appear when summoned can be subject to a 3-month prison sentence or a fine of Rs. 100 000 or both.

The International Research & Exchanges Board also known as(IREX) is heading the project to compile this act that would enable journalists to be imprisoned. In 2014 the Azerbaijani government accused Irex of engaging in anti-government activities. The bank accounts that belong to IREX were frozen by the Azerbaijan government while the offices that they occupied were raided by security forces.

IREX was forced out of Azerbaijan as an anti-governmental organization.

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