ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will appoint a committee to amend existing laws applicable to journalists and media organisations and to formulate a national media policy that will cover, among other things, media ethics, according to the cabinet office, amid concern over government overreach.
The cabinet of ministers has approved a proposal by Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma to appoint the committee that will represent the fields of media, marketing, education, law, administration and economics.
“Attention has been drawn by now to prepare a Sri Lankan media policy paying special attention to the laws, international laws, operation of national and international media institutions as well as social and cultural identities, building necessary background to present media personalities with esteemed professional skills, education on the use and behaviour of media including social media, socialisation of knowledge, understanding and communication strategies and supplying required facilities for digital technology considering the global trends and developments in the mass media and communication fields,” a statement from the cabinet office said.
“For this purpose, the requirement to amend existing laws, policies and ethics with regard to media personnel and mass media institutions has been recognised,” it added.
Journalists in Sri Lanka have long advocated self-regulation of the media with regard to ethics with little state intervention.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet press briefing on Wednesday, Alahapperuma, who is also co-cabinet spokesman, called it a major decision applicable to the industry that he himself was once part of prior to getting into politics.
“A major decision was made regarding our industry, to update laws pertaining to institutes that come under the media ministry,” he said.
In August this year, Sri Lanka’s government was contemplating legislation that would target websites whose posts it deems “defamatory” and have no visible ownership. The announcement gave rise to fears of a clamp down on freedom of expression.
The government would first focus on websites without owners’ names and addresses, according to one minister.
At Tuesday’s press briefing, Alahapperuma did not elaborate on the proposed policy on ethics, but said Sri Lanka is also gearing towards digitilalisation of state television in four years.Talks are under way with Japan in this regard, he added.
“We have to introduce new regulations for this endeavour, so cabinet approved a proposal to amend existing laws,” he said. (Colombo/Nov24/2021)