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Opposition leader wants editors summoned and questioned in Parliament over non-coverage of "vital" government statements

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 23 May 2007 FMM press release:

Disappointing utterance by the Leader of the Opposition

Colombo, Sri Lanka: The statement made by the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe, that editors should be summoned to Parliament to be questioned under the Parliamentary Privileges Act, sorely disappoints the Free Media Movement (FMM). Mr. Wickremesinghe made this statement in Parliament on 22 May 2007.

Mr. Wickremesinghe said this as part of a larger statement critical of newspapers that did not publish vital remarks, as he saw them, made by Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle on a Supreme Court decision limiting security provided to former president Chandrika Kumaratunaga.

There is no law that says all proceedings in Parliament should be carried by media. Journalists are free to cover parliamentary proceedings as they see fit, in accordance with accepted professional ethics. It is not up to the politicians to decide what should, or should not be carried by the media.

That Mr. Wickremesinghe wanted to summon editors to Parliament under the Parliamentary Privileges Act is disturbing. The Act in question is particularly one that national and international media freedom organizations have repeatedly impressed upon successive governments to repeal. The R.K.W. Gunesekara report on media law reform in 1995 as well as the Article XIX report on media in 1994 categorically recommended the overhaul of this act or, if not, for its abolishment.

The FMM itself has campaigned to remove this Act for a number of years, and requests all political parties to desist from using this regressive legislation to bring about undue pressure on editors and the free media.

At the same time we would like to reiterate our position that the best way to allow an interested public full and fair access to that which is debated in Parliament is to allow and provide resources for the live broadcast or telecast of parliamentary proceedings.

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