Eight media organisations place demands before Presidential candidates

Saturday, 13 December 2014 00:27 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Eight key media organisations in Sri Lanka have made a written request to presidential candidates President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena to include several issues relating to media freedom in their respective election manifestos. The organisations implore them when elected to implement these changes without delay, in consultation with all stakeholders. The demands have been made by associations representing print media publishers, editors of national newspapers, media and freedom of expression activists, working journalists and media worker trade unions. Among the demands was the enactment of a Right to Information (RTI) Act, which will grant Sri Lankan citizens access to official information. Agitation for the enactment of such a law has been ongoing in Sri Lanka since 1995 with RTI drafts being proposed variously by the Law Commission of Sri Lanka, the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement and more recently the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. A draft law was approved by the then Cabinet in 2004. Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia which does not have an RTI Act. The demands include the repeal of the Press Council Act of 1973 and the abolition of the Press Council, which has a stifling effect on the media by having powers to send publishers and editors to prison. The letter submitted to the two main presidential candidates referred to a previous joint appeal made to the President and Gen. (Retd.) Sarath Fonseka, the two main presidential candidates at the 2010 presidential elections. It also referred to several media law reforms contained in the Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility 1998 (revised in 2008), which is the roadmap for a free and socially responsible media culture in Sri Lanka. These demands from the presidential candidates were endorsed by the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, the Free Media Movement, the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, the South Asia Free Media Association (Sri Lanka Chapter), the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum and the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions.