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Freedom of Expression

Media Organisations Oppose Press Council

2011 May 14

Media organisations around the island are collectively opposing the re-activation of the government appointed Press Council (PC), describing it as a “draconian piece of legislation that empowers government appointees to punish journalists selectively”. According to the press release, Sri Lanka’s eight main media organisations have on previous occasions jointly and severally appealed to President Rajapaksa, both officially and informally, not to proceed with the PC.
Instead they have appealed for the “industry-driven self-regulator Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) to continue with its work in addressing complaints from the public, including those of government ministers and officials through a process of arbitration, mediation and conciliation”. They went on to describe that the government, instead of strengthening self-regulation, has reneged on their previous promises and opted to re-activate the Sri Lanka Press Council Law No.5 of 1973 with powers to imprison and fine journalists. This move is said to have a “chilling effect on media freedom in Sri Lanka”.
The media organisations calling for an immediate halt to on-going moves to re-activate the PC are The Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance, Muslim Media Forum, South Asian Free Media Association (Sri Lankan Chapter) and the Freedom of Media Employees Trade Union.

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