Sri Lanka to extend controversial Press Council law to electronic, new media

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will extend a controversial Press Council law enacted in 1973 to electronic and media, according to a decision by the Cabinet of Ministers.

The cabinet of ministers has approved a decision to “structurally reform and reorganise” the Press Council to cover electronic and new media, the statement said, though it did not specify what is considered new media.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella could not be reached for comment.

“The Sri Lanka Press Council has been established by the Sri Lanka Press Council Law No 05 of 1973 with the objective of preventing any prejudice to the public through press coverage and to establish a cordial relationship between journalists and the public. The provisions of that Act are restricted to the newspaper only. It has been identified that the Press Council should be structurally reformed and reorganised covering electronic, print and new media as a tribunal for journalists and media institutions and as a centre that promotes media education,” the announcement said.

The Ministry plans to set up a Committee of Experts to make recommendations. Views of the public and civil society organizations would also be sought, the state information office said.

Attorney-at-law Jagath Liyanarachchi speaking to EconomyNext said the move could pose a threat to media freedom, as websites would have to be registered once “new media” is incorporated into the Press Council.

“They have yet to define what exactly they mean by new media. Also, only those websites that fall within the parameters of what the Press Council decides a proper news website is will be eligible for registration, which could stifle their right to free expression,” he said. (Colombo/Jan05/2021)

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