Media organizations are requesting the Government to repeal the draconian Press Council Law and instead introduce progressive legislation such as a Right to Information Act which would be of immense benefit to the citizens of Sri Lanka. They point out that the Right to Information Act is operative in India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Thailand and over one hundred other countries around the world.
Following the joint meeting of eight media organizations to reiterate their united opposition to the re-activation of the Press Council, signatures are being collected for a petition to be submitted to the President.
The text of the letter to the President states:
We, the undersigned media practitioners in Sri Lanka are desirous in brining the following matters to Your Excellency’s attention;
1. We are extremely concerned and perturbed over moves by your Excellency’s Government to re-activate the Press Council, which has the power to imprison us.
2. The Press Council was made defunct following an un-written bona-fide contract between the political parties represented in Parliament in or about 2002- 2003, and the Media organisations representing publishers, editors, working journalists and media activists to introduce, promote and support a self-regulatory mechanism in place of the statutory Press Council.
3. The Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka was thereby established in 2003 with a Dispute Resolution Council comprising a majority of non-media representatives, chaired by Mr. Sam Wijesinha to settle disputes between the public and the press under the Arbitration Act No 11 of 1995.
4. Additionally, the Press Complaints Commission has entertained and disposed over seven hundred (700) complaints, and undersigned to co-operate with the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka and support the rules and procedures of the said Commission.
5. An Editors Code of Professional Practice has been formulated by the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka, whose membership includes editors of the national newspapers published in Sri Lanka. This Code is implemented through our respective newspapers and the said Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka.
6. Your Excellency will note that as a direct result of the establishment of the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka, media establishments have adopted a culture of publishing more frequently a Right of Reply by persons aggrieved by matters published in the newspapers.
7. The Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka offers redress to the public fairly and speedily and at no cost to the state.
8. The re-introduction of the Press Council is an archaic and retrogressive step as well as a blow to media freedom and democracy in Sri Lanka.
9. We urge Your Excellency’s Government to repeal the draconian Press Council Law No. 15 of 1973 and place Your Excellency’s trust in the media while supporting self-regulatory mechanism for the media as is done in advanced democracies.
10. We, the undersigned urge Your Excellency’s Government to introduce progressive legislation instead, such as a Right to Information Act as in India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Thailand and over one hundred other countries around the world, which would be of immense benefit to the citizens of Sri Lanka.