UNP to table freedom of information bill

UNP to table freedom of information bill


With the government preparing to set up a ‘Media Development Authority’, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) yesterday announced it would present a motion titled ‘Right to Information’ in parliament this week.

The UNP said through this motion it hoped to guarantee the people’s right to information on matters relating to the government and state institutions and safeguard the right of journalists to report these matters.

UNP media spokesman Gayantha Karunatilleke told a news conference that Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will table it in parliament as a private member’s motion.

Mr. Karunatilleke said the motion if passed would enable the public to be privy to information other than those on defence and decisions made by government under special circumstances.

He said the 2002 UNP government was planning to introduce a Freedom of Information Bill but was prevented from doing so by the sudden dissolution of parliament in 2004.

Mr. Karunatilleke said the government had the obligation to support the UNP to get the Bill passed considering the promises made in its Mahinda Chinthana’ manifesto’ which promises to improve the lifestyle of the journalists so as to work with an independent mindset.

He quoted the Mahinda Chinthana, where it says that journalists may allow themselves to be bought over by vested interests if they did not have the proper facilities to live a comfortable life.

Referring to a statement made by Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella that the objective behind the MDA is to improve the lifestyle of journalists, Mr. Karunatilleke said the government should fulfil the promises it gave to the media in its manifesto if this was so. He said journalists were promised duty free motorbikes and laptops while the editors of recognized media organizations were promised duty free cars.

“It is better if the government puts aside the MDA and instead fulfil its promises,” Mr. Karunatilleke said. “The government’s approach to media freedom by disregarding the 17th Amendment is similar to what it is doing about constitutional reforms.” He said attacks on media personnel and organizations were continuing with the latest being Friday’s attack on the Siyatha Radio and TV station by an armed gang.

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