Media groups reject ‘national media policy’

AS Sri Lanka suffers the indignity of being classified amongst one of the 10 worst places for journalists, five media organisations have called for the implementation of their recommendations, and rejected government moves to introduce a ‘national media policy’ in favour of a self-generated, self-regulated and independent framework that encompasses journalists from all sides of the nation’s conflict.

The Media and Information Ministry published newspaper advertisements explaining details of the policy and called for public submissions while leading media organisations including the FMM and the Sri Lankan Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA) have strongly criticised the proposed policy.

They said there was a need for members of the government, local authorities and the general public to respect journalists and an independent media culture, and to support the protection of media rights.

“The media is not a state-controlled body. It is a self-regulatory sector. If a government is trying to introduce policies for the media, it shows how primitive it is. What is necessary from the government is to establish a solid legal framework for a free media culture,” said FMM Convener, Sunanda Deshapriya.

“For their part, journalists and media institutions should be bound by an independent code of practice that prescribes the ethical and professional conduct of all media practitioners. Journalistic codes of practice are best respected and implemented when they are created and agreed upon by journalists and media organisations, without government intervention,” he added.

The five media organisations recommended the enactment of the proposed Right to Information Bill that has already received cabinet sanction, amendment of existing laws to transform state-owned electronic media into genuinely independent public service broadcasters, broadbase ownership of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd, revive the All Party Lakshman Kadirgamar Parliamentary Select Committee with a view to bring the Contempt of Court Act on par with similar laws in the United Kingdom and India, and to urgently amend the Parliamentary (Powers and Privileges) Act as per the Colombo Declaration.

– (Sunday Leader 16th March)