Sri Lanka: Media Secretary’s Action Problematic – Watchdog

The following statement issued by the Free Media Movement, an independent watchdog on journalism in Sri Lanka

( November 22, 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Free Media Movement likes to draw the attention of media community to the actions taken by the Secretary of the Media Ministry against Ada Derana News, accusing it of falsification of a speech by President Maithreepala Sirisena. FMM questions the availability of a system that a victim can lodge a complaint or initiate an inquiry on behalf of victims, against an act of violation of ethics by an electronic media. There is a self-regularizing mechanism guided by aCode of Ethics which is implemented by the media community, in a violation of ethics by print media such as inaccurate reporting, distortion, prejudice and contempt. The system that has implemented by the government, named as ‘draconian law’ which is rejected by the media community is also available. However, there is no complaint or investigation mechanism guided by a common Code of Ethics for electronic media. In this context, the transparency of the action taken by the Secretary of the Media Ministry of accusing a media institution of prejudicing a party with the state power and initiating an investigation is problematic. Further, according to the report by Derana TV, the second letter which requested a response within 7 days, was received by them leaving 1 day to respond.

The Free Media Movement has observed the ways in which the Secretary of the Media Ministry has been issuing statements and acting in a non-critical manner. Even though many parties kept silence due to grave accusations of money-laundering and several malpractices, the cancellation of CSN license is also be considered as an unreasonable act. Another observation was the letter sent to media organisations requesting not to use the term ‘collective opposition’.

This incident related to Derana emphasises the need for an acceptable, independent or self-regulatory mechanism for electronic media. As the FMM has lobbied many occasions, media can work freely without any government intervention and fear of losing the license, only through the establishment of an independent broadcasting authority as well as an independent/self-regulatory system for ethics. Therefore, the moment has arisen for electronic media community to work together to achieve this goal.

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