Thursday, May 05, 2011

Media forced to plead for life and profession: Media activists

By Susitha R. Fernando | Daily Mirror

The UN Panel report on Sri Lanka was prepared not because of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon but because of politicians who intimidated the media and failed to protect its rights, media activists celebrating the World Press Freedom Day said yesterday.

Speaking at a discussion organized to show challenges faced by Sri Lanka media at present, Chandana Sirimalwatte, the editor of ‘Lanka’ newspaper said that when various activities relating to the media is taking place under the theme ‘21st Century Media- New frontiers and new barriers’ around the world, Sri Lankan media was forced to plea to protect their profession and lives.

The discussion under the theme ‘One step to the Guillotine’ held at the Public Library was addressed by Lanka editor Chandana Sirimalwatte, lawyer for ‘We Are Sri Lanka’ organization, Nuwan Bopage, University lecturer Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri and Pubudu Jayagoda, JVP Political Bureau member.

In his address Editor Sirimalwatte stated that according to the report titled ‘To identify the challenges faced by Sri Lanka journalist’ prepared by Media Movement for Democracy (MMD) for the World Press Freedom Day, in the last six years nine journalists were abducted, 17 journalists arrested, 35 journalists attacked and 11 journalists were killed in Sri Lanka. In addition seven media institutions including newspaper, televison and website offices were attacked and completely burnt down.

Unfortunately the President and the Minister of Media had not done anything to protect the media or the journalists other than making speeches stating they would protect them. The government had failed to carry out justice against those intimidated journalists and attacked media institutions. Quoting the report, editor Sirimalwatte said that there are many instances where the police whose duty is to enforce law and order had taken the law into their hand against journalists. It was evident that both the government and the police follow a lethargic attitude to bring the culprits who intimidate and attack journalists and media institutions.

“This was how the Sri Lankan government and politicians who did not take any action when the media was intimidated, paved the way to release a UN report against the country,” the editor reiterated.

Lawyer Nuwan Bopage speaking on the legality of freedom of expression in Sri Lankan media said that the media freedom today has been violated and intimidated as had never happened over the history.

He said according to the legal system of other countries, the journalists enjoy far better freedom and they can report and criticize anybody for the betterment of the society. This is as long as they are not prejudiced and do not have intention to harm anyone. However even in such instances where the report of the journalist has affected someone he can have the opportunity to make an apology.

“The legal system has been used to attack and punish journalists over the history of Sri Lanka and the most dangerous situation is that the Emergency Regulation is being used to arrest journalists and keep them for prolonged detention, Further over the past journalists were branded as terrorists and charged them under Prevention of Terrorist Act (PTA)”, he said

He further said that media is reluctant to criticize judicial decisions which in fact is something that should happen. “If it is evident that the politicians are treated differently from others by the judiciary and allowed to get away when there are sufficient evidence against them, the media has the right to criticize,” Attorney-at-law Bopage said.

Meanwhile Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, Senior Lecturer of the Department of History at the University of Colombo speaking on the importance of independence of media said that the idea of freedom of expression is a result of the renaissance and obstructing it is denying the benefit of development we achieved from the renaissance.

“The UN Report on Sri Lanka was not an idea of its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon but was a result public outcry who wanted to know what happened during the war”. He further said that State of Sri Lanka is controlled by a one family which is against the ideology of renaissance.

© Daily Mirror

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