The Sri Lanka Web Journalists Association is disappointed by the government’s attempt to restructure the Sri Lanka Press Council to include electronic, print and new media and to act as a tribunal for journalists and media institutions.
We acknowledge that there should be regulatory process for media in Sri Lanka as in other democracies. However, the Web Journalists’ Association believes that they should be not controlled, but self-regulated by the media itself. To this end, we have developed and published a code of ethics for web journalism.
We recall that at the end of last year, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella announced that the laws would be published within two weeks to regulate the web media. He further said that the laws were formulated in accordance with the laws enacted in Singapore in 2019.
The International Media organizations have pointed out that the law imposed in Singapore is a suppression of media freedom.
A recent announcement by the government states that “The Press Council should be structurally reformed as a Tribunal for journalists and media institutions covering electronic, print and new media”. But Sri Lankan media organizations have been campaigning for more than a decade for the abolition of the Sri Lanka Press Council, which is set to grow into a tribunal body.
This is due to the fact that the Press Council is an institution appointed at the discretion of the President and has arbitrary powers. One example is that the Press Council can imprison a journalist for as long as two years.
Given the current political role of the Chairman of the Press Council, the Web Journalists Association sees the granting of more powers to such an institution as a serious threat to media freedom in Sri Lanka.
We call on all democratic forces in this country to oppose this anti-democratic attempt by the government. We also call on the government to allow the dissolution of the Press Council and to contribute to the development of a credible and effective self-regulatory mechanism for the media.
And hereby, the Web Journalists’ Association opposes the government’s attempt to transform the Press Council as a tribunal.