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Sri Lanka’s Media freedom will be threatened by proposed 20th Amendment – FMM

ECONOMYNEXT – The Free Media Movement (FMM) is expressing deep concern about the impending threat to the freedom of expression by the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution, a statement from the watchdog group said.

In a Press Release issued today, September 16, FMM said that the proposal “removes democratic features and structures introduced in the 19th Amendment.”

“The Independent Commissions have been placed in a position that they are no longer independent.”

This is because the members of these commissions are directly appointed by the President and “this is a challenge to freedom of expression and the freedom of the media since the appointments which are subject to the discretion of the President would be loyalists and not independent individuals.”

“The president has the power to appoint as well as remove them from office,” FMM pointed out.

FMM also raised the issue of whether an Election Commission appointed by the President would hold free and fair polls and whether “a non-independent commission will further enforce the media criteria issued regarding media behaviour during election periods and look into whether they will be implemented accordingly.”

“It also raises the question of whether there will be freedom for public opinion and whether media activism will be fair. If they do not act independently, public opinion will not be correctly expressed. The media will also be hampered from operating freely. If police chiefs are political appointments, obstacles to human rights such as the freedom of public opinion, freedom for meetings and transportation will be inevitable. The media will have to face obstacles in reporting” it added.

“Therefore, the Free Media Movement calls on the media community to pay attention to the serious threat to democracy, the right to the freedom of expression and the media freedom posed” by this amendment.

“ It also calls on all responsible stakeholders to reconsider the serious anti-democratic matters contained in the 20A which is supposed to safeguard democracy in a country.” (Colombo September 17, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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