Written by Staff Writer
31 May, 2023 | 8:02 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st); Sri Lanka's proposed new legislation on media has attracted criticism from all corners of the political and civil spheres.
The Broadcasting Regulatory Commission is to be introduced via a new piece of legislation.
The cabinet appointed subcommittee, led by Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe completed the drafting of the legislation establishing a ‘Broadcast Authority’ for the creation of a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission.
According to the Minister, this new piece of legislation is to be introduced with the aim of providing a legal framework that is acceptable to all sectors of the media industry—including broadcast media and other media institutions.
The country's Cabinet Spokesperson Dr. Bandula Gunawardane said this legislation aims to ensure comprehensive regulation of electronic media.
However, the country's political and civil circles have criticized this move, citing it as an attempt to clampdown on media freedom.
Former Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and current member of Parliament, Dr. Charitha Herath says that the government, by introducing these new regulations on media, is trying to generate fear among the media institutions to fulfill their personnel political agendas by doing so.
He said in order to promote their agenda on taking control over the media, the government has introduced a new term called 'National Economy', adding that it lacks proper interpretation, and that it can be used as a tool.
He said that the proposed legislation is in complete violation of the Right to Expression enjoyed by the citizens through Article 14 of the constitution.
President's Counsel M. A. Sumanthiran said that a similar attempt back in 1997 was defeated in court.
"A similar bill was brought in 1997 more than 25 years ago. The government at that time brought a bill called Sri Lanka Broadcasting Authority Bill, identical by name. What is most important is that this bill was challenged in the supreme court by none other than Gamini Athukorala, at the time the General Secretary of the United National Party and very close confidant of President Ranil Wikramasinghe," he told reporters.
The Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna forms the ruling faction in the country, and Attorney-at-Law Sagara Kariyawasam, the General Secretary of the SLPP said the party maintains a position that the media should be independent and should be given the independence it needs.
However, he said, if the freedom of the media is abused, necessary action needs to be taken.
"The Rajapaksas were accused of stealing. Then, the people of this country defeated them and empowered the good governance regime to reveal the thefts. The Good Governance regime finally realized that there was no such theft for them to reveal to the people," said.
The Samagi Jana Balavegaya claims that the proposed broadcasting authority bill is not at all democratic.
Dr. Harsha de Silva, a parliamentarian from the main opposition bloc in parliament, expressed concern over illegal activity being planned by the state, under the guise of this bill.
"We see this as an attack on democracy. We'd like to tell the government that if they try to do things like this, we will fight against it and defend the people's right to democracy," stressed the MP.
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