Reactivation of Press Council:
Not a move to suppress journalists
Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told Parliament yesterday
the moves taken by the Government to reactivate the Press Council has
not been taken whatsoever to suppress journalists or impose restrictions
on media personnel as highlighted by Opposition Leader Ranil
“There is no need to consult other political parties to reactivate an
existing law because no Government had taken steps to cancel the Press
Council,” he said.
The Minister was making a reply speech on a statement made by the
Opposition Leader regarding the decision taken by the Government to
reactivate the Press Council.
The Minister said the Press Complaints Commission set up as an
alternative to the Press Council has failed to provide any relief to
journalists or the Public Press Complaints Commission was turned into a
mere business place which collects the funds from the Non-Governmental
There was no transparency within the internal activities of it. The
media had also reported on various financial frauds and other
malpractices taken place within the Press Complaints Commission.
Therefore, the Government cannot agree upon the functions and activities
of such institution.
Having considered this situation, initiatives were taken by the
Government to reestablish the Press Council. But there is no need to
obtain the views of other political parties to reactivate an existing
law as highlighted by the Opposition Leader, he said.
According to the existing law, the Government has appointed veteran
media personnel such as Prof. Somaratne Balasuriya, Prof. Sunanda
Mahendra, Sunday Lankadeepa Editor Ariyananda Dobagahawatta and
Attorney-at-Law Prasad Suriyarachchi as the members of the Press Council
In addition, representation has also been given to key journalists
association and those who represent the newspaper industry. The
Government Information Director is also member (exofficio) of the Press
Council, he said.
“Therefore, when we look at the members of the Press Council, it is
clearly evident that they have never acted to suppress the media
directly or indirectly.”
The Press Council will be fully dedicated to ensure the media freedom
and assist to conduct high quality journalistic practices. It will also
help to further develop the educational and other training programs
conducted for the benefit of journalists. The Press Council will also
guide to create a proper coordination between all the relevant sectors
in the media field and instruct the Government to conduct the newspapers
in a very formal manner, the Minister said.
The Minister said” The Government has no intention to act against
editors or newspapers under the Press Council Act. There are no reports
on such acts taken against the Editors by the Press Council in the past
as well. The Press Council through the measures taken to amend the Press
Council Act has abolished the implementation of Defamatory Law”.
The Minister said that Press Council was inactive during the past few
years But rs. 20,988,653,79 has been spent to pay the salaries of over
20 permanent employees of the press council during the past five years.
In addition Rs. 3,270,000.00 has been paid as the building rent of the
Press Council during the past five years. Therefore, huge amounts of
money has been spent to maintain the permanent staff of the Press
Council without obtaining any productive service from them.
Recommendations were also made by the Committee on Public Enterprise to
re-establish the Press Council. As a result, the Government decided to
re-activate the Press Council under the existing law.
Under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Government
was able to restore peace in the country by ending the three decade old
terrorist problem. Therefore, steps were taken to re-activate the Press
Council to fulfill the objective of the Government to create an
environment conductive to journalists to perform their duties in a more
peaceful manner. If any amendments are needed to the Press Council Act,
the Government is ready to consider it. The Government is fully
dedicated to ensure the professional rights of journalists and provide
all the needy facilities to them through the Press Council. “I believe
the journalists and the people will look at the functions of the Press
Council in an optimistic manner. I also request the Opposition Leader
not to create a wrong picture among the journalists and the people
towards the moves taken to re-activate the Press Council under the
existing law approved by Parliament, the Minister added.