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Media Ministry's inquiry of Sri Lankan news outlet seen as "problematic"

This statement was originally published on on 21 November 2016.

The Free Media Movement would like to draw the attention of the media community to the actions taken by the Secretary of the Media Ministry against Ada Derana News, accusing it of falsification of a speech by President Maithreepala Sirisena.

FMM questions the availability of a system [permitting] a victim to lodge a complaint or initiate an inquiry on behalf of victims, against an alleged act of violation of ethics by an electronic media outlet. There is a self-regularizing mechanism guided by a Code of Ethics which is implemented by the media community, in regards to instances where ethics are violated by print media whether by inaccurate reporting, distortion, prejudice and contempt.

At the same time a [legal] system that has been implemented by the government is also available; this has been termed a "draconian law" and rejected by the media community. However, there is no complaint or investigation mechanism guided by a common Code of Ethics for electronic media outlets. In this context, the transparency and the action taken by the Secretary of the Media Ministry in accusing a media institution of prejudicing a party with state power and initiating an investigation, is problematic. Further, according to a report by Derana TV, the second letter from the Ministry which requested a response within 7 days, was received by Derana 1 day before the response deadline.

The Free Media Movement has observed the ways in which the Secretary of the Media Ministry has been issuing statements and acting in a non-critical manner. Even though many parties kept silent despite grave accusations of money-laundering and several malpractices, the cancellation of the CSN (Carlton Sports Network) license should also be considered an unreasonable act. Another cause for concern was the letter sent to media organizations requesting they not use the term "collective opposition".

The incident related to Derana emphasizes the need for an acceptable, independent or self-regulatory mechanism for electronic media outlets. As the FMM has lobbied on many occasions, media can work freely without any government intervention and fear of losing their license, only through the establishment of an independent broadcasting authority as well as an independent/self regulatory system for ethics. Therefore, the moment has arisen for the electronic media community to work together to achieve this goal.

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