Media policy during conflict and post-conflict periods: The experience of Sri Lanka

TitleMedia policy during conflict and post-conflict periods: The experience of Sri Lanka
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Careem, R.
Affiliation (1st Author)Sri lanka Development Journalist Forum
Section or WGLaw Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeLAWT3b
Slot Code (Keyword)LAWT3b
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleRepresentation and Policy-Making
Submission ID6122

Sri Lanka is a great sign of a country where the media policy and media law were seriously considered as matters in allowing the government position to be more dominant during the conflict and post conflict era. Voice of the real democracy wasn’t heard, Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of independent media and freedom of public service broadcasting did not become a reality over the government domination of media policy which made reconciliation the only reality in government’s aspect.  Sri Lanka had the greatest paper work in terms of written law – Article 18(1) (g) of the 1972 Constitution of Sri Lanka recognizes the right to freedom of expression for every citizen as a fundamental right. Similarly, Article 14(1) (a) of the Constitution of the Democratic, Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka promulgated in 1978 also guaranteed the freedom of speech and expression, including publication to every citizen. But however, the same rule has been undermined most strategically, in a manner that media couldn’t be reflective beyond the interest of the government. Alternative media had to find a different set of language to reflect the ground reality within the government interest. Government media were monopolized and many media played a significant role in enforcing the sense of superiorism among the majorities, and controlling the media focus on the reality of war and reconciliation.  The freedom of speech and expression including publication is not an absolute or unbridled right but is sub­ject to numerous restrictions - Parliamentary (Powers and Privileges) Act, The legal principles applicable to situations of sub judiciary and the contempt of court proceedings, Laws relating to Civil and Criminal defamation, Press Council Law, Profane Publications Act, Obscene Publications Ordinance, Official Secret Act, Newspaper Ordinance, Printers and Publishers Ordinance, Printing Presses Ordinance, Telegram Copyright Ordinance, ,Regulation 14 of The Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and Powers). Amended Broadcasting Act No. 48 of 1988 gave many political privileges and power to the state broadcasting corporation known as SLBC. When it comes to television the amended Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Act 43 of 1988 gave similar privilege to the national television cooperation (SLRC). Further, even though the current government promised to implement a law on the right to information, that hasn’t become a reality yet. For the last 25 years, the effort for the successful implementation of the right to information Act (RTI) has become a failure for various political reasons. In this context hundreds of journalists were killed, journalists were kidnapped, assaulted, imprisoned, number of media institutions were closed, political parties were given free TRC licence, war reporting was controlled, Reporters were not allowed to write about post conflict movements. The sense of an independent media is almost diluted. The sense of a need in new media policy is not focussed. The full paper would focus how the media policy could be a matter during conflict and post conflict era.

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