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Media union files petition to prevent political interference and intimidation of journalists working with media outlets belonging to government-owned ANCL

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Sri Lanka Media Union Demands End to Political Intervention in State Media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) supports the Lake House Employee's Union (LHEU) in filing a Fundamental Rights petition to prevent political interference and intimidation of journalists working with media outlets belonging to the government-owned Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd (ANCL), or Lake House, and to promote implementation of the Lake House Provisions Act.

The LHEU is a member of the Federation of Media Employees' Trade Union (FMETU), an IFJ affiliate.

According to the LHEU, the petition submitted to the Supreme Court on March 27 seeks to protect the public's right to information, demand independence from editorial restrictions caused by political interference, and implement immediately the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd (Special Provisions) Act 1973, known as the Lake House Provisions Act.

The Act was initially meant to prevent governments using the publicly funded ANCL to serve political interests. The Act stipulates that Lake House's major shareholder, the government-appointed Public Trustee, cannot give directions on editorial policy or free expression in regard to any Lake House publications.

However, the LHEU reports the Act has not been implemented. Instead, it says that ANCL's business turnover of almost Rs3 billion (about US$28 million) is currently channelled into supporting the activities of politicians.

Almost 2500 members of ANCL's 3000 staff are alleged political appointments, according to the LHEU. The LHEU claims that staff changes, dramatic shifts in job responsibilities, recruitments and dismissals have been heavily influenced by successive governments.

"Independent media is essential in Sri Lanka, particularly as the Government has shown a consistent lack of respect for free media and the rights of journalists across the island," said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

"As guardians of the public interest and human rights, journalists and media houses should not be pressured into submitting to the interests, persuasions and attitudes of any political leader, party or politician."

The IFJ calls on the Supreme Court to investigate fully the claims made in the Fundamental Rights petition and to take appropriate action to ensure that state-owned media in Sri Lanka is freed of political interference.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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