FMETU condemns the attack on the GoallFace peaceful protesters by using thousands of armed forces!

Press release

July 22, 2022

FMETU condemns the attack on the GoallFace peaceful protesters by using thousands of armed forces!

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions strongly condemned the horrible attack used by thousands of armed security forces on the peaceful protestors who were staying at the Galle Face struggle ground the last night has been condemned by all sections of the people who respect democracy. When the protesters were deciding to leave the premises of the President’s Secretariat, this terrible attack was made on the unarmed people who were on the ground of the strugglers and especially on the local and foreign journalists who were reporting there.

Currently, there is no information about several journalists who were reporting on the situation, and have they been arrested? or hospitalized due to assault? There are no government officials to provide any information, in this situation is clear proof of the horror of this attack by the government.

It is to be condemned that no one came forward to give an answer even though lawyers and journalists asked questions in this regard from the officials. This attack is a horrific anti-democratic attack that was carried out on the instructions of the government authorities within a few hours of the swearing-in of the new President of the country. This event confirms the best factor to measure the difference between the speech and actions of the new president of Sri Lanka. This terrible attack on freedom of speech by using emergency law should be strongly condemned by all people who are interested in democracy.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions appeals to national and international media organizations, trade union movements, and civil society to intervene immediately to stop these undemocratic actions of the new president of Sri Lanka and government and to establish democracy in the country.

Sincerely.

Dharmasisr Lankapeli

General Secretary.

Strugglers breaking into media institutions is an action that should not happen!

Press release

July 13, 2022

Strugglers breaking into media institutions is an action that should not happen!

‍The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions disapproves of the intervention of a delegation of strugglers to influence the media activities of those institutions by entering into the public and private television channels, in the last few days. “Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions” is a member organization of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), comprising 187 media organizations from 146 countries.

The behavior of public and private media institutions and their journalism, freedom of the journalists, independence of the Editorial Board, and the partiality of information that is brought closer to the people, is a situation that has been heavily criticized by us. To force such a situation to change through coercive, unilateral approaches is contrary to democratic principles as well as free media traditions. It must be said that the Sri Lanka Television Corporation was forcibly entered on the 13th and its programs were suspended and the views of those who pretended to be strugglers were broadcast live, which was a death blow to the traditions of free media.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions struggling, with other media organizations to transform the state media as well as private media convert into the ‘Public Service Media’ concept with the aim of creating free media in the country for the past two decades. We must understand that these kinds of actions will create obstacles to the collective efforts of the people who have been oppressed by the anti-people actions of the government over the past decades, and to the struggle to win democracy.

It is worth noting that the Federation of Media Workers Trade Unions, which emphasizes that freedom of speech is a basic foundation of a democratic society, says that such actions are an obstacle to the struggles for social, economic, and political freedom. Our conference proposes to the whole society to combine the struggle of media organizations with the current optimal struggle to avoid such meaningless actions and establish a tradition of “Public Service Media”.

Thanking you,

Dharmasiri Lankapeli

General Secretary.

The brutal attack on journalists engaged in reporting near Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s residence!

Press release

July 10, 2022

 

The brutal attack on journalists engaged in reporting near  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s residence!

Four journalists from Sirasa Media Network, two other journalists who came to rescue them, and a journalist from Derana Media Network were brutally assaulted by the police and police special task force soldiers who were engaged in reporting near the private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. We, Joining together with the International Federation of Journalists, strongly condemns this brutal attack. In addition to this attack, it was reported that several journalists were assaulted and threatened by the security forces in the last few days during several incidents on the island.

These attacks, pressures, and threats are made against the basic right of the people to right know information and it is a violation of the fundamental human rights of the people. Our Federation strongly requests to the authorities including the Inspector General of Police that the law should seriously act strictly against these police officers who violated the basic human rights of the people.

Our Federation strongly believes that it is the responsibility of the Inspector General of Police to bring these officers, who are responsible for these cruel attacks and torture to justice. We recommend to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, which is bound by the responsibility to protect the basic human rights of the people and emphasize that it should intervene with responsibility regarding such incidents.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Union strongly requests all the authorities to carry out immediate and comprehensive investigations regarding these attacks and influence and do justice to the journalists and to intervene responsibly to protect the basic right of the people to know information.

Thanking you,

 

Dharmasiri Lankapeli

General Secretary.

Free Assange now!

 

No jail for journalists

The IFJ is calling on the United States government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home.

On June 17, 2022, the United Kingdom approved Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States to face charges, primarily under the nation’s Espionage Act, for releasing US government records that revealed the US military committed war crimes against civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the killing of two Reuter’s journalists. If found guilty, Assange faces a jail term of up to 175 years.

The IFJ is gravely concerned about the impact of Assange’s continued detention on media freedom and the rights of all journalists globally. The US pursuit of Assange against the public’s right to know poses a grave threat to the fundamental tenets of democracy, which are becoming increasingly fragile worldwide. Irrespective of personal views on Assange, his extradition will have a chilling effect, with all journalists and media workers at risk.

The case sets a dangerous precedent that members of the media, in any country, can now be targeted by governments, anywhere in the world, to answer for publishing information in the public interest.

Wikileaks was awarded the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism in 2011, an annual prize to reward excellence in Australian journalism, in recognition of the impact of WikiLeaks’ actions on public interest journalism by assisting whistle-blowers to tell their stories. Whistle-blowers have since been utilised by other media outlets to expose global tax avoidance schemes, among other stories.

The sentence of Chelsea Manning, who collaborated with Assange to release the contentious material, was commuted by President Barack Obama. None of WikiLeaks’ media partners have been charged in any US government legal proceeding because of their collaboration with Assange. Aside from the dire implications for press freedom, there is also no legal criterion for Assange’s extradition and charges.

The IFJ is calling on the United States government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home to be with his wife and children. The IFJ is also calling on all media unions, press freedom organisations and journalists to urge governments to actively work to secure Assange’s release. #FreeAssangeNOW

Thanks To

World Press Freedom  Day interactive webinar…..

The presentation was done at the World Press Freedom  Day interactive webinar,   organized by the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions and Rainbow Institute of Communication. The theme of this webinar was the same as the Press Freedom Day, theme  – Journalism under Digital Siege. The presenter was Ms. Thusari Gamage, Senior Lecturer in Communication studies, Open University of Sri Lanka.
In spite of the challenges of power cuts, there was a cross-section of media students and professional journalists from several provinces, operating in print, electronic and digital media.  There was a great deal of interest in the topic and the discussion was lively.

Hijacking of journalists’ mobile phones is MPs’ thuggery!

Press release

May 18, 2022

Hijacking of journalists’ mobile phones is MPs’ thuggery!

 Sirasa journalist Kasun Samaraweera and the President of the Parliamentary Reporters’ Association, journalist Prageeth Perera were using mobile phones to cover their reporting. Indika Anuruddha and D. Weerasinghe two MPs by abducted on these mobile phones with brutal malicious. The Federation of Media Workers’ Trade Unions, in association with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), strongly condemns this malicious act by members of parliament.

Journalists have been given the Speaker’s permission to use mobile phones in their reporting. Following the day swearing-in of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new Prime Minister, on the first-day meeting of the 17, ruling party group, journalists have been covering the incident as usual. At that time, the mobile phones of the two journalists were abducted by these two MPs named above. What is even more ridiculous is the statement made by Channa Jayasumana, who supported the move, that a group of strangers was videotaping him in Parliament in front of the Speaker.

It is even more ridiculous that MP Channa Jayasumana describes these two journalists, who are very close friends with 225 MPs, as unidentified men. After handing over the two hijacked phones to the parliament officers, the Speaker should draw attention to the fact that the officers deleted all the data stored in them and handed them over to journalists. The two journalists have already lodged a complaint with the Speaker and the Welikada Police regarding the incident. The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions emphasizes that this whole incident is a serious threat to the freedom of the media in general and the professional dignity of journalists.

The accuracy of the massive protest being waged by the people of the country against 225 MPs in Parliament explains what this thuggery of the Members of Parliament is all about. The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions strongly urges the Speaker to draw the attention of the entire Parliament to this shameful act of the Members of Parliament and to take appropriate action against the actions of the Members of Parliament.

Sincerely.                                       

Dharmasiri  Lankapeli                                             General Secretar 

                                         

Journalists support #Gota Go Home 2022 people’s struggle! Journalists march April 20 at 3.00 pm near Fort Railway Station.

#Gota Go Home Journalists have organized a march near the Fort Railway Station to join the struggle in support of the struggle.
The march is scheduled to leave the Fort Railway Station on April 20 at 3.00 pm and journalists from all over the country are expected to join the march. Following is the full text of the press release issued by the Federation of Media Workers’ Trade Unions regarding the march.

Press release

 April 18, 2022

 Journalists support #Gota Go Home 2022 people’s struggle!

Journalists march April 20 at 3.00 pm near Fort Railway Station.

 More than 10 days have passed since the people’s struggle that began spontaneously, unable to bear the oppression of the Gotabhaya Rajapaksa government. The struggle against the government, which began without any discrimination, is turning into a growing nationwide struggle demanding the empowerment of the people of the country.

All journalists in Sri Lanka, irrespective of their organization, profession, or language, have decided to give their full support to these people’s struggles. The Solidarity March organized by journalists from all over Sri Lanka will commence on April 20 at 3.00 pm near the Fort Railway Station.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU) urges all island-wide journalists to participate in this march in support of the Galle Face People’s Struggle, regardless of organizational, professional, or linguistic differences.

FMETU cordially invites the heads of media institutions are also to participate in the People’s Struggle Solidarity March organized by the people of the country against the oppressive government. The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU) has also kindly requested the heads of media institutions to allow all journalists working in their media institutions to participate in this march and to be free of duty that afternoon.       

Thanking You,

Dharmasiri Lankapeli

General Secretary

Government should take responsibility of attack on journalists who covered Mirihana public protest – FMETU

The Federation of Media Employees Trade unions issued a Press statement about attacks by police and security forces last Friday 31st to peaceful demonstration.

The full statement is as follows.

Press release

April 02, 2022

Government should take responsibility for the attack on journalists who covered the Mirihana public protest.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions along with the International Federation of Journalists vehemently condemn the heinous and shameful attack by police and security forces on journalists who covered the public protests at Nugegoda Mirihana on March 31.  The IFJ is the most influential media organization with over 600,000 members of 167 media organisations and unions in 146 countries worldwide.

During the aforementioned protests, a group of individuals who had identified themselves as the members of the President’s Media Division have threatened the journalists to step out of reporting and intimidated senior journalist Tharindu Jayawardena with threats. The journalist has lodged a complaint at the Mirihana police on the incident. Among those who had been taken into custody after beating and torture by police and security forces were journalists Avanka Kumara, Chatura Deshan of Sirasa TV, Sumedha Sanjeewa Gallage, Pradeep Wickramasinghe, Nissanka Werapitiya of Derana TV and Waruna Wanniarachchi of the Lankadeepa newspapers. The police were not merciful to admit those journalists with severe wounds and injuries to a hospital.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the brutal attack on journalists had been unleashed with the intention of preventing them from performing their duties to report the protests. The journalists had been attacked even after they produced the Media Accreditation Cards issued to them by the Director-General of Government Information. The FMETU emphasizes that the government should take full responsibility for the heinous crime committed against journalists.

The FMETU strongly demands that the government should take immediate action to conduct an impartial investigation of the attack on journalists and ensure the sacred right and responsibility of journalists to report facts and disseminate information to people and not infringe on people’s rights to freedom of expression.

Sincerely.

                 

Dharmasisr Lankapeli,                                                                               

General Secretary

 

Prompt intervention for the job security and professional dignity of journalists

March 17, 2022

Mr. Dullas Alahapperuma, Minister of Mass Media,

Ministry of Mass Media

 

Dear Hon. Minister,

Prompt intervention for the job security and professional dignity of journalists

It is unfortunate that incidents that harm the job security and professional dignity of journalists are increasing day by day. We present this letter to you in anticipation of your prompt intervention to prevent such actions.

The service of Nilepthi Ranasinghe, a freelance journalist of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, which is under the direct control of your Ministry, has been suspended with immediate effect on the instructions by the administration. She was informed by the SLRC administration that the reason for the termination of her service was a note she had published on her Facebook page regarding the President.

Duminda Silva, the chairman of the Housing Development Authority, had telephoned and threatened journalist Rahul Samantha about his news report. Duminda Silva is convicted of murdering Bharatha Lakshman and was serving a prison sentence, was later released on a presidential pardon. We learned that both these incidents have been reported to you. Our federation believes that you, as a well-experienced professional journalist, do not approve you both incidents.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions, a full member of the International Federation of Journalists, which represents more than 600,000 member journalists in 160 countries, strongly condemns both actions. We also urge you to expedite the investigation into these two incidents and intervene to protect the job security and dignity of journalists while safeguarding their freedom of speech and expression.

Thanking You, Yours sincerely

Dharmasiri Lankapeli    

General Secretary

077 364 1111

fmetu123@gmail.com

 

cc To all media institutions

Sri Lanka’s Personal Data Protection Bill Leads to Public Uproar.

A major fuss has arisen over Sri Lanka’s Personal Data Protection Bill, to be taken up for the 2nd reading in Parliament on Wednesday (9th March 2022).

Media organisations and civil society have both protested over the fact that a ‘Government controlled entity will be given the power to decide what data should be protected with very wide coverage on ‘special categories of data. The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka has pointed out that this will be a problem to journalistic reporting of corruption stories as the Bill places obstacles by protecting ‘personal data relating to offenses, criminal proceedings, and convictions.

 

In an editorial that first pointed to the dangers, the widely read the Sunday Times asked on February 13th, 2022 as to why, ‘In an era of information disclosure that Sri Lanka has pledged to be part of after passing a world-class Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2016, …a Bill on Data Protection presented to Parliament recently by the Prime Minister must revert to ancient terminology by including a clause on Official Secrecy?’

The editorial warned that ‘care must be taken to ensure that protection of data does not prevent the release of information which is in the public interest and observed that the Bill, as it stands, ‘contains too many ambiguities that must be corrected before it passes into law.’

The Young Journalists Association (YJA) meanwhile challenged the Bill in the Supreme Court but the petition was dismissed by the Court on a technicality, that it had been filed in the Supreme Court registry out of time. This was despite the petition being filed just minutes after the official time of filing which was 3 pm. The YJA had stated that ’journalistic purpose’ should be stated as an exception to the processing of data as is the case in all other countries, that the RTI Act should be balanced with the purpose of data protection, and that the Data Protection Authority should be independent rather than ‘Government controlled’ as the Bill provides.

It also pointed to the dangers of a ‘Government controlled’ Authority being given the power to impose hefty fines up to ten million rupees per every act seen as ‘violating’ the Act without these other concerns being addressed.

Colombo Telegraph learns that the Government has promised media organisations that their concerns would be addressed while the Opposition has assured that it would support the amendments proposed by the media to the Bill.

On Monday, the Sri Lanka Press Institute together with the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka (NSSL), Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Tamil Media Alliance (TMA), Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF), Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU), South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) and the SLPI, issued a press release informing that they had handed over a letter to the Minister of Mass Media, Minister of Justice and the Secretary of the Ministry of Information Technology highlighting key concerns with the Bill.

They pointed to the fact that while the proposed Personal Data Protection Act is being recognised as an important one in the digital era, serious thought should be given to the implication and infringement to the rights of professional journalism and media freedom. It was emphasized that definitions regarding personal data and special categories of personal data remain arbitrary given that special categories also include data related to offenses, criminal proceedings and convictions which do not recognise the journalistic right to exercise free speech in delivering such information.

It was also noted that the proposed Act would prevail over every other law in any inconsistency, including the Right to Information (RTI) Law which would compromise the access to information that the public and journalists have via the prevailing RTI law.

Transparency International Sri Lanka meanwhile also raised similar concerns, asking the drafters of the Bill why they had decided to omit important protections in the initial draft on personal data protection released in 2019. The preamble of the 2019 framework refers to Sri Lanka’s constitutional Right to Information (RTI)as a crucial right, recognizing the need for the public interest to be balanced with the protection of personal data.

However, as TISL pointed out, this balance is not reflected in the Bill which had omitted that reference. Also, the 2019 framework had called for the appointment of independent three members to a nine-member Data Protection Authority through a public application process. The Bill has deleted that safeguard, saying only that the Authority is to be a ‘Government controlled entity.’ This is in violation of all international standards which call for the Data Protection Authority to be independent of the government.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka(BASL) has however remained silent on concerns relating to the Bill, particularly the lack of independence of the proposed Data Protection Authority. Its office bearers, including its President Saliya Pieris and others, have applauded the Bill while not acknowledging its serious drawbacks, young journalists who challenged the Bill in the Supreme Court say, pointing out that it is the duty of the Bar to objectively respond to bills that infringe on rights.

Colombo Telegraph also spoke to several experts on data protection, including a senior law academic associated with the early drafts of the Bill who questioned as to why the 2019 data protection framework had been radically changed. A researcher who had worked with the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) clarified that though it is claimed by those pushing the Bill through Parliament, that the Bill had been examined by the RTIC, this was distorting facts as it was only the 2019 framework on data protection that had been sent for feedback to the RTIC.

If Parliament approves the Bill in its current form, it will force all Sri Lankan editorial newsrooms, non-governmental organisations, and research institutes to have Data Protection Officers who will answer to the dictates of a ‘Government-controlled’ Data Protection Authority, experts warn. This will further erode the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, already under massive threat by a security state, they say.

Courtesy Colombo Telegraph

 

 

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