Reviving the Press Council
The decision by the Government to
re-launch the Press Council is welcome news. We say this in
consideration of the potential such an institution possesses, given its
identity as a State body, to deal even-handedly with public complaints
against the local press.
It would be unrealistic to expect a perfect performance from all
public sector institutions, given the constraints under which they
However, there is a strong possibility of organisations such as the
Press Council holding the scales evenly in their dealings with the
public on account of their considerable accountability to the State and
the people, than privately - run institutions of this kind.
A public sector body is usually subjected to a number of checks and
balances and this prevents it from acting arbitrarily. Accordingly, it
would need to base its thinking and its decision-making on the common
interest and avoid sectarian biases.
For instance, it would need to scrupulously avoid ethnic and
It is our experience that the Press Council measures-up to these
standards. It has, for instance, dealt even-handedly with issues
concerning ethnic and religious minorities.
Therefore, the Press Council's accountability to the State, which in
turn is expected to uphold the common good, makes it an ideal instrument
in the settlement of disputes between the public and the press.
Apparently, there have been some adverse reactions in some sections
to the news on the reactivation of the Press Council.
Why react with alarm and fear if one's newspaper does not engage in
selling the national interest and is not a purveyor of falsehoods,
prejudices and baseless scandals? Why bother about the reinstallation of
the Press Council if one does not specialize in character assassination
and in the spewing of defamatory commentary?
These are issues for the detractors of the Press Council. If the
highest standards of journalism are conformed to by our newspaper, there
is absolutely no need to fear the Press Council or to fret over moves to
As far as we are aware, the Press Council would conduct itself on the
lines of an arbitration body.
It would not be imposing draconian regulations on errant newspapers
or clamp unbearable penalties on those which have been acting in
violation of laws regulating the media, but would try its best to arrive
at amicable settlements between parties to a dispute, thus obviating the
need for these parties to resort to litigation.
However, those questioning any rulings by the Press Council are at
liberty to seek redress for their grievances in the courts system.
Reviving the Press Council, therefore, is a sound measure which should
be welcomed and not seen as controversial.
We call on the State to appoint nothing less than the best minds to
the Press Council. This body should never be seen as compromising the
Malik Peiris, the first Sri Lankan Fellow of the
Following in the footsteps of giants
On May 18, 2006 the Royal Society of the United
Kindom elected 44 new Fellows and six foreign members. Lord Rees,
the president of the Royal Society, said that the new Fellows,
'....... followed in the footsteps of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin,
Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough and Tim Bremers-Lee the inventor
of the world wide web'.
Handle gentle giants in humane manner
On May 19, the Richmond Times Dispatch of USA
carried an article in the middle page title 'Sri Lankas naughty
pachyderms to pack trunks for rehab'. This news was also on the
internet on CBS news. I read this article with much interest, as I
have been involved in many elephant projects in Sri Lanka from my
Cutting edge of Hindu revivalism in Jaffna
After about 300 years of intense persecution
under the Portuguese and the Dutch, the Hindus of Jaffna heaved a
sigh of relief when the British took over at the fag end of the 18th