Broadcasting Authority Bill continues to draw criticism from many quarters

Broadcasting Authority Bill continues to draw criticism from many quarters

Broadcasting Authority Bill continues to draw criticism from many quarters

Written by Niresh Eliatamby

02 Jun, 2023 | 1:37 pm

Colombo (News 1st) – The proposed Broadcasting Authority Bill continues to draw criticism from many quarters thAt are opposed to the draconian aspects of the bill, which include the power to imprison journalists, levy fines on journalists, and even cancel the broadcasting licenses of electronic media organizations.  

The proposed bill will provide extraordinary powers to a 5-member commission to investigate complaints made on reporting that allegedly affects national security, religious harmony, and the national economy. However, these areas have not been defined in the bill. In addition, the commission could investigate any broadcast media organization even without any complaint being received.

The commission also carries the power to take action against media organizations that may be involved in these alleged transgressions.

The proposed bill will even empower the commission to enter the premises of media organizations and confiscate any recorded material. 

Critics have pointed out that the commission would literally be playing the multiple roles of the complainant, judge, jury, and executioner. 

Social activist Melani Gunathilake pointed out: "Keep in mind that rights mean that people can lose their rights. The rights of those who they don't like can be violated. But it stops at the point where our ideas are controlled. Because today you are the one who is imprisoned by those laws. If someone else doesn't like your opinion, this is your opinion being suppressed. The best way for the people to protest against the rulers is to speak out. These acts are brought to suppress the people speaking against injustice. The law is being misused."
S.M. Marikkar, Deputy National Organizer of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya party, said: "We state very clearly, in 1997, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's government also tried to play this game. This bill was thrown out. After that, what did this government do? They suppressed the media organizations and journalists they didn't like. To weaken the media organizations, they stopped the advertisements of government-owned institutions and controlled them. We would like to say to President Ranil Wickremesinghe that you are the one that taught everyone in the United National Party what democracy means. I'm astounded. We will take this to court, but the people must also be against this bill."

Sanjeewa Edirimanne, MP, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna which has a majority in parliament, added: "No, we will not allow the majority to be used for passing anything. We say this as a government and as the SLPP. There may be times when we have to take an unpopular decision. If something bad happens in the present or someday in the future, we will definitely talk about it before raising our hands."

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