Let us defeat the government’s move to bring an ‘Electronic Broadcasting Regulatory Authority’
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Sei Lanka Media Organizations met the then Minister of Media Keheliya Rambukwella on Monday 15th March 2021 and handover their proposal for an independent regulatory authority to monitor print, radio, television, and social media.
Participated Media Organizations are the Sri Lanka Media Owners Association (NSSL), the Sri Lanka Editors Guild (TEGOSL), the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU), Free Media Movement (FMM), the Tamil Media Alliance (TMA) The Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF), South Asia Free Press Association (SAFMA) and Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI).
The Press Statement issued by Dhamarsiri Lankapeli, General Secretary of the Federation of Media Workers’ Unions regarding the Electronic Broadcasting Authority Act proposed by the government is published below in full.
June 03, 2023
Let us defeat the government’s move to bring an
‘Electronic Broadcasting Regulatory Authority
The government’s new proposal for an Electronic Broadcasting Regulatory Authority is a reminder that discussions for a free and fair media tradition date back to 1994 when the Chandrika Bandaranaike government attempted to reform the state media. Several committees such as the RKW Gunasekara Committee and the Sidath Sri Nandalochana Committee had been appointed for the purpose but at least their reports were not made public yet.
We firmly believe that independent, balanced, and unbiased media culture is essential for the existence of democracy and good governance of a country. History shows that for more than two decades, media organizations led by the Editors’ Guild, media agency owners, media agency heads and civil organizations have been trying for an ‘independent media regulation’ commission.
The ‘Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility –1998’and the Tholangamuwa Declaration titled Charter for a Democratic and Pluralist Media Culture and Social and Professional Rights for Media and Journalism in Sri Lanka – 2005 were two other efforts for the same purpose. In the year 2005-2006, a draft was prepared jointly by the media organizations and civil organizations of Sri Lanka with the intervention of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) for the creation of a public service electronic broadcasting authority and a tradition of public service journalism in Sri Lanka. That was scheduled for discussion in Parliament in 2005, yet the subsequent political changes did not permit its materialization.
Let us mention that in the year 2021, the then Minister of Media, Mr. Dullas Alahapperuma, also tried to create a similar discussion. Now the incumbent government is planning to pass a bill to set up an electronic broadcasting regulatory authority.
The Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions is of the opinion that the latest proposal for an Electronic Broadcasting Regulatory Authority is a move inimical to the fundamental right of the people for freedom of expression as well as their right to know. It is our understanding that this move is actually intended to control electronic media and to muzzle down social media. As such, we the FMETU call on every citizen who aspires for a free public service journalism tradition in Sri Lanka to stand up against the government’s move.
We would like to present the following proposals alternative to the government’s move for media regulation:
We suggest that the present government should strengthen the Sri Lanka Press Institute, which was supported by the 2002 government. In addition, we strongly recommend abolishing the Sri Lanka Press Council. The guidelines and recommendations made by media organizations and other civil organizations for the sake of the self-regulatory Commission over the past two decades should be taken into consideration.
The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions suggests that the government should provide facilities to start an open discussion on the personal safety and job protection of journalists and the preparation of a necessary work procedure for a media self-regulation system. And we suggest that the support of media organizations and interested civil organizations, and international media organizations should be obtained.
For an independent media regulatory mechanism, we are engaged in a collective process with other media organizations including Sri Lanka Press Institute, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Free Media Movement, Editors’ Guilds of Sri Lanka, and Newspaper Publishers’ Association. The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions is a full-member organization of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which has more than 600,000 members of journalists from 170 countries in the world.
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