Sri Lanka reimposing press curbs – watchdog

[TamilNet, Friday, 23 June 2006, 19:13 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government is re-introducing press censorship, reimposing curbs lifted in 2002, a local media watchdog protested Friday. Noting that “cabinet had approved the re- introduction of state controlled regulation of media in Sri Lanka,” the Free Media Movement (FMM), said “the government has taken a step backward on safe-guarding the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka’s Minister for Information Mr. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa announced on Thursday that cabinet had approved the re- introduction of state controlled regulation of media in Sri Lanka and that accordingly, the Sri Lanka Press Council will be restored and necessary appointments will be made in the coming days, FMM said.

“All media reform reports and recommendations related to Sri Lanka during the last two decades have flagged the need for re-formulating the Press Council Act. As it stands today, the Press Council Act has penal provisions that are in direct violation to freedom of expression.”

“Press Council Law of 1973 prohibits, amongst other things, the publication of cabinet decisions, cabinet documents, certain defence and security matters, and certain fiscal measures. Because it makes it an offence for newspapers to publish these issues, it is in effect the imposition of permanent censorship on the media.”

In 2002, when the self-regulatory Press Complaints Commission was set up by the Editors Guild, the Newspaper Society and the FMM, appointments to the Press Council was halted, the watchdog said. “Until that all appointments to the council was politically motivated.”

FMM said it “strongly urges the government to rethink its decision to restore the undemocratic Press Council Act.”

“We advise the Government to complement the existing self regulatory mechanism, the Press Complains Commission of Sri Lanka, in an effort to strengthen media freedoms in Sri Lanka.”

 

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