Press Statement

Evolving political crisis, behavior of state and private media and safety of journalists

27 Nov, 2018

It is the firm belief of the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Union that a socio-economic and political crisis of very serious nature is brewing in Sri Lankan polity owing to the calling of snap general elections following the dissolving of parliament and appointment of a new prime minister by President Maithripala Sirisena.

The decisions by the President to dissolve parliament and to call for an election are now being challenged before the Supreme Court.

An observation of statements issued recently by majority of media organizations of Sri Lanka it is discernible that developments in incumbent parliament and the purported government have become a serious threat to media freedom and democracy in the country.

Our Federation unreservedly and unwaveringly condemns the undemocratic actions of the government including the exposed attempts to transfer the police officers who are investigating many crimes during the last decade including the assassination of Lasantha Wickremathunga, abductions and enforced-disappearances of journalists. The government should have extended its support to the judiciary complete those investigations.

Amongst all those challenges, our Federation is also observing the conduct of print, electronic and broadcasting media institutions owned both by state and private sectors and is expressing the regret and displeasure over the one-sided media behavior of both state and private media institutions in reporting the ongoing crisis. That sorry state of affairs in media conduct is developing further in response to the evolving political crisis.

It is so unfortunate that even the editors displaying callous disregard for media ethics set by international media organizations or at least for the guidelines outlined in the Code of Conduct introduced by the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka and the FMETU expresses its disapproval of the unethical reportage of recent incidents by some newspapers of which the editors hold the leadership of the Editors’ Guild.

The FMETU observes that this despicable status quo in media conduct is only an extension of the situation prevailing for the past couple of decades in this country. Since the government taking over of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (Lakehouse) in 1973, it publications continued not only to become the trumpet of the government in power but also to serve as a playground of government henchmen.

The situation is similar in the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the Independent Television Network which too counted as state media.

The FMETU vehemently condemns the incidents soon after the President took the oath of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister after removing Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 26 night at the SLRC where a team of UNP lead by Mangala Samaraweera barged in to the newsroom to dictate terms and subsequently another team led by Keheliya Rambukwella of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna led by Mahinda Rajapaksa coming there to assign the top posts of the SLRC. We do not hesitate to state that as per now, all state media institutions are administered and managed by the persons belonging to the Mahinda Rajapaksa’s party.

The FMETU believes that it would be easy to find a solution if media institutions of a country render their duties without blessedness independently when that country is in a crisis situation and emphasizes that such balanced discharge of services would contribute for the development and sustenance of the media industry. It is no secret that majority of people have an understanding of the conduct and use and abuse of media by institutions and their owners and started questioning the credibility of Sri Lankan media culture.

The FMETU further emphasizes that it is not possible for journalists to escape from the present plight of distorted and manipulative media culture without being organized. It is such an organization of journalists would help them protect themselves and uphold the dignity and integrity of their profession. It is with the strength of organized effort the journalists could save their rights which have been continuously ignored and neglected by the owners of media institutions.

Written By

Federation of Media Employees' Trade Union Federation of Media Employees' Trade Union

Federation of Media Employees' Trade Union 17 Barack Lane, Colombo 02, Sri Lanka Telephone: +94 1 472 407 Fax: +94 11 232 4053