President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday stressed that ensuring freedom and democracy is essential to forming a good government and that citizens’ right to information prevents financial mismanagement and corruption.
The President said the right to information is a fundamental right of every citizen of a country enjoying democracy, freedom and human rights and it is the responsibility of state officials as well as media to apprise the people of their right.
President Sirisena made these remarks today addressing the first ever international conference held to mark the International Right to Information Day in Colombo.
The two-day conference organised by the Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Ministry in association with the Department of Government Information was held under the theme “Right to Information and Media Reforms”.
The President in his address noted that for years, politicians as well as civil society underscored the need for legislation to ensure the public’s right to information and that the current government was successful in bringing in this legislation through the 19th amendment. President Sirisena explained that Right to Information is immensely important to prevent fraud and corruption and that through the legislation, everyone could be informed of how public funds are being utilised and whether the funds are mismanaged.
Speaking further, the President pointed out that the media is responsible in ensuring the Right to Information Act is properly utilised to provide accurate information to the public.
“True media freedom cannot be enjoyed if media institutions only obey the wishes of their owner,” he said.
He noted that people not only have the right to access the information of the state sector, but also those from non-governmental organisations. There are instances where NGOs have acted against the Government and the expectations of the public, he said.
Sri Lanka’s Right to Information Act which was approved earlier this year is ranked sixth in world rankings. It is the second best Right to Information Act in South Asia. Addressing the Conference, Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Gayantha Karunathilake said that the Government would mediate for the maintenance of an independent media within the country. The keynote address at this two-day conference was delivered by Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and Chairman of the Law Commission Judge Ajith Shah. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Minister Rauf Hakeem, Deputy Minister Karunaratne Paranavithana, foreign diplomats and foreign representatives and representatives of civil organisations were among the large gathering present.