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Media organisations express concern over opposition leader's remarks to reporter

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a statement by FMM and four other Sri Lankan media organisations, known as the Five Media Collective:

On the criticism of the "Daily Mirror" by Hon. Ranil Wikramasinghe, leader of the opposition

The Five Media Collective expresses our disappointment over the attitude of intolerance and animosity displayed by Mr. Ranil Wikramasinghe towards a "Daily Mirror" reporter at a press conference held by UNP (United National Party) on 1 December 2008. In our opinion this attitude is inconsistent with democratic norms and journalists' rights.

When a "Daily Mirror" reporter asked a question about the UNP's plans for the upcoming elections, Mr. Wikramasinghe's response was to instruct the reporter to direct that question to his deputy editor and chief editor. Then Mr. Wikramasinghe went on to criticize the "Daily Mirror" deputy editor for an opinion he has expressed in his weekly column saying that Mr. Wikramasinghe is a weak leader. Mr. Wikramasinhge asked the "Daily Mirror" reporter to tell his deputy editor, Kesara Abewardana, to come to the next press conference so that they could have a debate about his opinion.

Our organizations stand by journalists' or media institutions' right to express their own ideas on public interest issues, provided that they do not violate the accepted media ethics. The Five Media Collective thinks that a negative attitude coming from a person who is an esteemed leader of the opposition towards a reporter could be a wrong example for many others to follow.

Intolerance of other opinions is a major issue in Sri Lankan politics as well as in our media culture. Today we live in a situation of unprecedented media suppression and intimidations. In such a situation, any intolerance and animosity towards the media and journalists could be perceived as a threat.

We appeal to all politicians to tolerate even offending questions by the media and reporters and respond to them properly. Responding to reporters' questions is respecting people's right to information. If any issues go beyond (the accepted norm) we hope that all concerned parties will solve them democratically.

The Five Media Collective would like to express its displeasure over the way the "Daily Mirror" editor has been censoring news according to her whims and fancies in recent times. In our view not only politicians but editors and the media as well have a duty to build credibility with relevant audiences by acting respectfully, adhering to an accepted code of ethics.

Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU)
Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF)
Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Alliance (SLTJA)
Free Media Movement (FMM)

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