Ethics code for state media not free press, says Karu

Thursday, 27 June 2013 02:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Government is making direct and indirect moves to control the media, UNP MP Karu Jayasuriya said yesterday, denouncing the ruling party’s attempt to introduce a code of ethics for the media. Jayasuriya said that it is the Government’s intent to control public opinion by keeping a tight rein on the country’s free press. “According to Laswell, media has three key responsibilities. Firstly it has to play the role of a watch dog, being vigilant about things taking place in the surroundings. Secondly, to coordinate the reactions of different segments of society in relation to these incidents. Thirdly, to communicate cultural heritage. The Government is taking action to control the media to suit their requirements by influencing the first and second responsibilities of the media, as shown by Laswell,” Jayasuriya explained. He said that the media fraternity already had a code of ethics published by the Editors Guild. “This code is being followed by several media institutions. In the event of a violation of the code, provisions are there to go before the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka,” he said. Jayasuriya blamed the state controlled media for behaving in a way that subverts the truth for political reasons, engaging in character assassination and inciting communal and religious harmony. ”We have expressed our objection several times to two programs conducted by the Broadcasting Corporation and ITN, attacking selected persons of the Opposition, referring to their private lives, education etc. Myself and other members of the Opposition and brought up this matter at the Media Advisory Committee. There should be a Code of Ethics for the state media. The Code of Ethics introduced by the Editors’ Guild could be adopted for this purpose. Otherwise, the Code of Ethics prepared by the Government could be followed. What we need is the state media to be exemplary. We are saddened that the state media as a whole is subjected to disrepute due to narrow political expediency of a few individuals,” he charged. Jayasuriya said the United National Party always respected the independence of the media and protected the dignity of journalists. ”The UNP considers a free media as a basic principle of democracy. The UNP government which came to power in December 2001 took action to repeal the Criminal Defamation Laws that targeted media personnel unfairly,” he said.  He said that it was deplorable that due to the policies of the present Government, Sri Lanka has been subject to international criticism for its media rights record. Jayasuriya called on the Government to immediately enact a Right to Information Act. (DB)