analysis of media rights in srilanka

Essay by shakthiUniversity, Bachelor'sB, May 2013

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The aim of this research paper is to examine the importance of media rights in a society and the objective of this research paper is to present and analyse the current situation of media rights in India and Srilanka and provide a comparision.


The scope of this project is defined as the situation of media rights that prevail in society and it's importance.

The limitations lie in the fact that the research has been limited to examining of media rights in Srilanka and India.


What are media rights?

Why are media rights important in a democratic country?

What is the position of media rights in India?

What does media rights mean in a country like Srilanka?



This research paper is divided in to three main chapters. The first chapter deals with the importance of media rights in a country and how it affects the society, the second follows with an analysis of the situation of media rights in India, and the final chapter deals with the power of media rights and what extent of it is actually being exercised in Srilanka.


The Style of writing is analytical as well as descriptive


A Uniform method of citation has been followed throughout the paper.



"One of the objects of a newspaper is to understand the popular feeling and give expression to it, another is to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments; the third is fearlessly to expose popular defects"

The foregoing statement by Gandhi explains the importance of media in upholding freedom, and in expanding education and social reforms and change. Media can inform people giving them the voice to be heard and heeded to. Democracy in general terms is understood to be a form of government which is subject to popular sovereignty. It is essentially a rule by the people which is in contrast to monarchies or aristocracies. One of the crowing glories of the democratic system is the freedom of expression and the space that is provided to views from different sections of the society. Democracy requires that people should have the right to know the activities of the government, especially the decision of the government that affects their life, liberty and property. Information is important for people to make choices regarding their participation in the State, the market and the civil society. Sufficient information helps people to decide rationally and take the right course of action beneficial to them. Media, both print and electronic thus helps people to know what is happening around the world, socialize them with the values of pluralism and equip them with the elements of modernity. By publicizing information the media also make public services more responsive to the people.

A democratic system can run to its utmost potential when there is wide participation on the part the general mass which is not possible without people getting informed about various issues. Reliable information resources are an important constituent of any democratic society.� This is where media steps in. A responsible media equally helps in socialization of people into citizenship, democratization of the State and political society, institutionalization of civic culture through unfettered flow of information, and rationalized use of power in social relations. In a country like Srilanka media can also help voters with the contents of civic and political education and strengthen the culture of democracy. This is the reason political scientist Karl Deutsch has called that the system of communication proves a "nerve of the polity," and any breakdown of the nerve may cause dysfunctional impact in the performance of the polity causing governance decay.

Mass media in its different forms have influenced human life in the present century. They have primarily provided information and entertainment to people across countries. Print media, being the leader over a considerable period of time has now got competition from Television, which is reshaping many of the social responses. Radio apart from providing news and views has also developed a flair for entertainment, thereby getting a lot of acceptance. There is also the new media with internet being its flag bearer. Internet has indeed made it possible to disseminate information and ideas in real time across the globe. However, among all these developments there is a cause of concern. Is media really fulfilling its social responsibility? Is a booming global mass media posing threats to the democratic way of thinking? In it posing challenges to a country like India where media has a greater role to play rather than merely providing information and entertainment?

The role of media in a democratic system has been widely debated. India has the largest democracy in the world and media has a powerful presence in the country. In recent times Indian media has been subject to a lot of criticism for the manner in which they have disregarded their obligation to social responsibility. Dangerous business practices in the field of media have affected the fabric of Indian democracy. Big industrial conglomerates in the business of media have threatened the existence of pluralistic viewpoints. Post liberalisation, transnational media organisations have spread their wings in the Indian market with their own global interests. This has happened at the cost of an Indian media which was initially thought to be an agent of ushering in social change through developmental programs directed at the non privileged and marginalised sections of the society.

The role of an independent media is vital in providing news coverage and a balanced perspective in any conflict in general and particularly in Sri Lanka, where there is a government clampdown on media freedom. A free and fair media will provide a strong affirmation to an updated version of the old adage that "Information is more potent than destruction". This research paper further analyses the importance of media rights in a country and also the current situation of media rights in India and that of Srilanka.


The normative view of the press argues that the conduct of the media has to take into account public interests. The main public interest criterions that the media need to consider include freedom of publication, plurality in media ownership, diversity in information, culture and opinion, support for the democratic political system, support for public order and security of the state, universal reach, quality of information and culture disseminated to the public, respect for human rights and avoiding harm to individuals and the society.

The social responsibilities expected from media in the public sphere were deeply grounded with the acceptance of media as the fourth estate, a term coined by Edmund Burke in England. With the formation of the 1947 Commission on the Freedom of the Press the social responsibility of media became a strong debating point. It was formed in the wake of rampant commercialization and sensationalism in the American press and its dangerous trend towards monopolistic practices. The report of the Hutchins Commission, as it was called, was path breaking on its take on social responsibility and the expected journalistic standards on the part of the press.� The theory of social responsibility which came out of this commission was backed by certain principles which included media ownership is a public trust and media has certain obligations to society; news media should be fair, objective, relevant and truthful; there should be freedom of the press but there is also a need for self regulation; it should adhere to the professional code of conduct and ethics and government may have a role to play if under certain circumstances public interest is hampered. �

Informing the citizens about the developments in the society and helping them to make informed choices, media make democracy to function in its true spirit. It also keeps the elected representatives accountable to those who elected them by highlighting whether they have fulfilled their wishes for which they were elected and whether they have stuck to their oaths of office. Media to operate in an ideal democratic framework needs to be free from governmental and private control. It needs to have complete editorial independence to pursue public interests. There is also the necessity to create platforms for diverse mediums and credible voices for democracy to thrive. It has already been discussed that media has been regarded as the fourth estate in democracy. Democracy provides the space for alternative ideas to debate and arrive at conclusions for the betterment of society. The publicly agreed norms are weighed over that of actions on the part of economic organizations and political institutions. This is close in essence to the concept of public sphere where rational public debate and discourse is given importance. Individuals can freely discuss issues of common concern. Media plays one of the crucial roles behind the formation of public sphere. However, Barnett is of the opinion that in modern times the true sense of public sphere is getting eroded with the media of public debate getting transformed to mediums for expressing particular interests rather than general interests which are universally accepted. This signifies that public sphere which is essential for a vibrant democracy can actually be channelized to serve vested interests rather than public good.



The political system in India is close in spirit to the model of liberal democracy. In the constitution of India the power of the legislature, executive and judiciary have been thoroughly demarcated. The party system in operation is a competitive one with flexibility of roles of government and opposition. There is also freedom of the press, of criticism and of assembly.� Indian democracy has always attracted attention worldwide and has made scholars to ponder over the secret of its success amidst considerable odds. In India diversity is almost everywhere and it is not a developed nation. The problems of poverty and inequality in distribution of income have been constant irritants. Nevertheless, till today democracy has survived in the country. The role of media in India, the largest democracy of the world is different from merely disseminating information and entertainment. Educating the masses for their social upliftment needs to be in its ambit as well.

In a country where there is large scale poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment media has a responsibility towards developmental journalism. It has a role to play behind formation of public opinion which can force the political parties to address the core issues haunting the country's progress. However, public opinion can be manipulated by vested interests to serve their own goals.� Media can conceal facts and project doctored ideas to influence the electorate and thereby the voting outcome. Values like objectivity and truthfulness in presentation of news and ideas can be totally done away with.

In India public service broadcasting was given much importance after independence. It was used as a weapon of social change. AIR (All India Radio) and Doordarshan, the public service broadcasters in the country had the responsibility of providing educational programs apart from information and entertainment. However, it needs to be taken note of that the public service broadcasting system in the country was closely identified with the state. A monopolistic media structure under state control has the threat of becoming the mouthpiece of the ruling elite. The scenario was bound to change with the opening up of Indian economy in a bid to integrate with the global system. It signalled the emergence of a competitive market in the field of media with public service broadcasters getting challenges from private entities. This, however, had the seeds of a new problem of ownership.

Ownership pattern of media across the globe and in India is a cause for concern. There are big corporate houses who own newspapers and television networks. A higher concentration of ownership increases the risk of captured media.� Media independence in such a scenario gives way to safeguarding the interest of the owners who may not serve social responsibilities. The space for plurality of ideas is eroded sending ominous signals for democracy. Boggart in his article opines that in many democratic countries media ownership has reached dangerous levels of concentration.� He has cited the examples of News Corporation's (owned by Rupert Murdoch) 37 % share in United Kingdom's national newspaper circulation and Silvio Berlusconi's ownership of top three commercial television channels, three pay TV channels and various newspapers and magazine in Italy which act as his political mouthpieces.�

Therefore, across mass media options have opened up for availability of transnational homogeneous content. The growth of media conglomerates and their powerful presence has raised fears of manipulation of ideas by a powerful few detrimental to the democratic fabric. The corporate giants have also engaged in severe competition among themselves dishing out news and content which is primarily dominated by sensationalization, sleaze and glitz to capture wider markets. The disturbing trend that has emerged in the present media scenario is the use of media in the battle between rival political groups.� In fact, this new phenomenon is in operation in India with newspapers and news channels taking sides while presenting facts. The same event can be presented in two contrasting manners in two newspapers or two television channels. Coronel argues that promotion of hate speech in place of constructive debate and creating an atmosphere of suspicion rather than social trust has the danger of making people cynic about the democratic setup leading to its breakdown.

While discussing the dangers associated with the developments in media it needs to be said that media in India has also undertaken roles which have strengthened democracy. The media as a watchdog of the democratic system has unearthed its various shortcomings. Investigative reporting in print and television media has helped in exposing large scale corruptions which have robbed the nation. The Commonwealth Games Scam, the Adarsh Housing Society Scam, Cash for Vote Scam and the Bofors Scam are the highpoints of the Indian media. Across newspapers and television channels voices have been raised when the bureaucracy, judiciary or other public functionary have crossed the laxman rekha. There have also been initiatives to promote community media for the citizens to air their concerns. This is a significant leap towards alternative media usage which is distant from the dominant structure. Here the importance lies more in participatory communication right from the grassroots rather than communication which flows top down. Various television channels have also given the space for ordinary citizens to air their views in the form of citizen journalists thereby promoting democratic participation. Newspapers have educated the masses by informing them of the developments in the field of science and technology. They have also expressed strong views against prejudices which harm the society. Much developmental news has also been aired through the medium of radio. Its comparative low cost and wide acceptance among poorer sections have made it a potent tool for expressing ideas beneficial to the public.

Internet, a relatively newer entrant in the field of mass media, has proved to be more democratic than newspaper and television.� The power of the internet can be easily judged from the developments in Egypt in recent times.� Those who control considerable wealth have the opportunity to sway public opinion in their favour with the help of mass media. In the 2G scam the Radia Tapes controversy brought in focus the journalist, politician and industrial conglomerate nexus.� Developments like these are a threat to democracy and undermine the media fraternity. Advertisements in newspapers, television, radio and at times the internet have become a part of the present election campaigns. Candidates with better funds have the edge over others in being voted to office because they can buy newspaper space and considerable air time.�



What does media freedom mean in a place like Sri Lanka that is determined to stamp out a long-standing insurrection? There is an old adage that the "pen is mightier than the sword" in many long standing conflicts around the world, especially where media persons and vocal critics have been killed, injured, threatened or silenced, the adage has a hollow ring to it. Without independent media freedom, people everywhere would not be able to obtain the comprehensive news and views of all persons involved in the conflict. Consequently, the public would only be aware of the official Government line.

In the conflict in Sri Lanka, the widely quoted statistic is that there has been around seventy-thousand casualties since the inception of the insurrection although the exact number is probably higher and cannot be determined due to government restrictions on media activity in the conflict zone. Some governments have an aversion to independent news media covering conflicts that might show the enemy in a sympathetic light, but the presence of independent media would also allay the concerns of concerned persons that military operations were not infringing on the civil rights of people living in the conflict zones.

The role of an independent media is vital in providing news coverage and a balanced perspective in any conflict in general and particularly in Sri Lanka, where there is a government clampdown on media freedom. A free and fair media will provide a strong affirmation to an updated version of the old adage that "Information is more potent than destruction".

The Sri Lankan government has revived legislation that vests the Sri Lanka Press Council, a statutory body, with broad powers to restrict the media and punish offending journalists and publishers with fines and imprisonment.� The law was first enacted in 1973 by the coalition government of Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike amid a deep economic crisis and widespread social discontent. The government had just suppressed an armed uprising of rural Sinhala youth and was facing growing industrial action by the working class, including an all island bank workers strike. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which broke from Trotskyism in 1964, played a key role in the ruling coalition.�

The Press Council continued to function as a mechanism to intimidate the media under successive governments until 2002 when it was rendered inoperative through a bipartisan resolution in parliament. The United National Front government of Ranil Wickremesinghe had just signed a ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as the basis for internationally-sponsored negotiations for a permanent peace. The law, however, was never scrapped.

After plunging the country back to war in 2006, President Mahinda Rajapakse and his government pressured and intimidated the media, but did not revive the Press Council. His decision to do so now is a sign of political weakness, not strength. Having militarily defeated the LTTE, the government is now facing a worsening economic crisis as the result of huge defence spending, compounded by the global recession.

The President has the sole prerogative to appoint the revived Press Council, including its chairman. Its orders and censures cannot be challenged in any court of law. Moreover, the Council is set above public criticism. Clause 12 states that it is a punishable offence if anyone "without sufficient reason publishes any statement or does anything that brings the council or any member thereof into disrepute during the progress or after the conclusion of any inquiry conducted by such Council".�

The law prohibits the media from revealing any aspect of government discussions. "No person shall publish, or cause to be published, in any newspaper, any matter which purports to be the proceedings or any part thereof, of a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers," it states. Even the contents of documents exchanged between ministries are prohibited from publication.

The most important restrictions are in clause 16. Subsection 3 states: "No person shall publish or cause to be published in any newspaper any official secret within the meaning of the Official Secrets Act or any matter relating to military, naval, air-force or police establishments, equipment or installation which is likely to be prejudicial to the defence and security of the Republic of Sri Lanka".�

This sweeping prohibition on matters related to the military is particularly significant. Rajapakse has repeatedly accused opponents the media, striking workers, protesting students and opposition politicians of undermining "national security". In the wake of the LTTE's defeat, the government has retained draconian emergency powers and is boosting the military. It has been particularly sensitive to any criticism of the army's killing of civilians in its final offensives and the internment of nearly 300,000 Tamils in detention camps.

Subsection 4 prohibits the publication of "any statement relating to monetary, fiscal, exchange control or import control measures alleged to be under consideration by the Government or by any Ministry or by the Central Bank, the publication of which is likely to lead to the creation of shortages or windfall profits or otherwise adversely affect the economy of Sri Lanka".�

Under the guise of a "nation building" program, the government is preparing a massive assault on the social position of the working class. In his victory speeches, President Rajapakse declared that working people would have to sacrifice like the "war heroes" had. This subsection of the law effectively provides the means for suppressing any criticism of the government's economic policies.

The revival of the Press Council comes amid an atmosphere of communal triumphalism whipped up by the government after the LTTE's defeat, which was accompanied by intensified harassment and intimidation of anyone critical of the government or the military. In the first instance, Rajapakse is determined to block any investigation, no matter how limited, into his government's criminal war.

In June 2009, the opposition United National Party called for a parliamentary select committee to examine police investigations into the abduction and killing of hundreds of people, including journalists and politicians, over the past three years by death squads associated with the military. Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa summarily dismissed the proposal. "When you say that 11 journalists were killed, we have doubts about this figure. In this list of journalists, there are names of those who worked for the LTTE's Voice of Tigers. I don't know whether we can identify them as journalists," he said.�

The abductions are continuing. Krishni Kandasamy (Ifham), a Tamil journalist, was seized by a gang, whom she suspected were policemen, on the outskirts of Colombo city. They arrived in a white van, the hallmark of the pro-government death squads. The thugs dropped her in Kandy, 116 kilometres away, without facing any challenge at the numerous security check-points in between.

Reporters, sales agents and other employees of Uthayan, a Tamil newspaper published in the northern town of Jaffna, received an ultimatum to stop working for the newspaper or face the consequences. The newspaper has been repeatedly attacked during the past three years. Last week, copies of Uthayan and other Tamil newspapers were seized and burned in Jaffna town after refusing to publish an unsigned pro-government letter sent by unknown persons.

Earlier in July 2009, Poddala Jayantha, the general secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, was abducted and brutally beaten by an unidentified gang on the outskirts of Colombo. Last year he was summoned by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse and warned not to criticise the military.

None of the attacks on the media has been seriously investigated by police. The reestablishment of the Press Council provides the government with the means to further suppress any critical reporting. Sections of the media, which has for the most part backed the war and raised very limited objections to the government's policies, have raised some concerns about the new law.

An editorial in last weekend's Sunday Times declared: "The Government's act is a stab in the back not only to the media but to the citizenry. The Press Council is meant to have a 'chilling effect' on media freedom; it is the proverbial 'sword of Damocles' hanging over the head of the media practitioner." It continued: "These undemocratic moves are totally un-becoming of the president, and the re-introduction of the Press Council betrays a gloomy picture for the future of the post-war Sri Lanka, and the questions are being raised if there is 'deep state' syndrome in Sri Lanka."�

President Rajapakse, however, has increasingly acted with contempt for the constitution, the law and parliament, operating through a cabal of selected ministers, senior officials and military officers. The Sunday Times editorial reflect concerns in sections of the ruling elite that Rajapakse's open attacks on democratic rights will only undermine the legitimacy of the state apparatus and provoke opposition from working people.

The revival of the Press Council poses an obvious question: if the war is over, why is the government imposing tighter controls on the media? The answer is equally clear: it is to gag the press as this shaky government proceeds to make savage attacks on the jobs, living standards and democratic rights of working people.

The EU report of October 2009 observed: "The Constitution of Sri Lanka guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of expression. However, the emergency legislation enables the Government to restrict freedom of expression in a disproportionate way. Several emergency laws create broad criminal offences aimed at limiting the communication and possession of information or material 'prejudicial to national security'. These broadly defined offences leave so much room for interpretation to the point that it is difficult for a person to know whether or not he is committing an offence." �

Freedom of the Press 2009, Country Reports, Sri Lanka, 1 May 2009 noted that: "Media freedom continued on a downward trajectory in 2008, as outlets faced increased restrictions on covering the intensifying conflict between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels, and journalists encountered heightened attacks and intimidation, particularly in the war torn north. Although freedom of expression is provided for in the constitution, a number of laws and regulations restrict this right. The 1973 Press Council Law prohibits disclosure of certain cabinet decisions as well as fiscal, defense, and security information, while the decades-old Official Secrets Act bans reporting on information designated 'secret'." �

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemned the Government's decision to revive the Press Council. "The Sri Lankan Press Council Act of 1973 contains stringent provisions, including the power to prosecute for contempt and sentence journalists to extended periods in prison and to prohibit the publication of certain kinds of content by the media, including: Internal communications of the government and the decisions of the Cabinet, Matters relating to the armed services that may be deemed prejudicial to national security, and Matters of economic policy that could lead to artificial shortages and speculative price rises."�

The U.S. State Department (USSD), Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2008, Sri Lanka stated that: "The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press. Although the government owned the country's largest newspaper chain, two major television stations, and a radio station, private owners operated a variety of independent newspapers, journals, and radio and television stations. The government imposed no political restrictions on the establishment of new media enterprises. Several foreign media outlets operated in the country. �

Media freedom deteriorated in the Colombo area, as well as in the conflict affected north and east. Many journalists practiced self censorship. "The government made several attempts to prevent independent media houses from criticizing the government and its policies. Senior government officials repeatedly accused critical journalists of treason and often pressured editors and publishers to run stories that portrayed the government in a positive light." �

The Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) Sri Lanka, Annual report 2009 noted that Sri Lanka ranked 165 out of 173 in their latest worldwide index and considered the press in Sri Lanka as 'not free'. They also further observed that, "The Colombo government's crushing military victory over the Tamil separatists was coupled with a brutal campaign against the press and dissident voices. Sri Lanka is of all the countries with an elected democratic government the least respectful of media freedom. The army and Sinhalese ultra nationalists have carried on a campaign of permanent harassment of the privately-owned media and particularly specialists in military affairs. Media, which have been forced into exile or gagged, no longer dare to criticise or investigate military strategy while the press on the island was previously known for the high quality of its investigations."


The EU report of October 2009 observed: "Implementation of the right to freedom of expression remains a serious problem. Sri Lanka has been ranked as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. It is reported that senior Government officials have repeatedly accused critical journalists of treason and often put pressure on editors and publishers to run stories that portrayed the Government in a positive light. Journalists who criticise the government have reportedly been subject to verbal and physical attacks, harassment, restrictions on access and vilification. A considerable number of Sri Lankan journalists have been driven into exile; in some cases, their families remaining in Sri Lanka have continued to receive threats. Government representatives have often attempted to discredit critical voices, notably journalists, as supporters of the LTTE and traitors to Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Defence website has accused journalists of acting as mouthpieces for the LTTE."�

The USSD 2008 report noted that "Media personnel were subject to threats and harassment during the year. Statements by government and military officials, including Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, and Minister of Labor Mervyn Silva, contributed to an environment in which journalists who published articles critical of the government felt under threat."�

The Freedom House Freedom of the Press 2009, Country Reports, Sri Lanka,observed that "Journalists throughout Sri Lanka, particularly those who cover human rights or military issues, faced regular intimidation and pressure from both high and low ranking government officials. As a result, levels of self-censorship have risen considerably. The level of threats and harassment against journalists and media outlets continued to rise during the year. In addition to verbal and physical attacks from official sources, journalists and press advocacy groups perceived as supportive of Tamil interests have drawn the ire of Sinhalese nationalist vigilante groups. A number of journalists fled the country as a result of threats. Previous cases of attacks and killings of journalists have not been adequately investigated or prosecuted, leading to a climate of impunity." �

It also added that "Several privately owned newspapers and broadcasters continue to scrutinize government policies and provide diverse views. However, media outlets have become more polarized, shrinking the space for balanced coverage. In recent years ownership has also become more consolidated, with many private outlets now owned by figures who are closely associated with the government or who hold official positions. The Colombo based Free Media Movement has noted that state run media including Sri Lanka's largest newspaper chain, two major television stations, and a radio station are heavily influenced by the government, citing cases of pressure on editors, several unwarranted dismissals of high level staff, and biased coverage." �

The Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) Sri Lanka, Annual report 2009 noted that "Murders, physical assaults, kidnappings, threats and censorship are the lot of Sri Lanka's journalists. Violence against the press that was for a long time restricted to the Tamil media, now affects journalists working in Sinhalese and English. Armed men attacked the popular TV station Sirasa of the MTV group, apparently because it was not sufficiently 'patriotic'. Editor of the highly independent Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga, was assassinated in Colombo, in January 2009. Police have proved incapable of arresting the suspects, as in every case of murder and assaults against journalists in the past three years. The government has deliberately sown fear among Tamil journalists by imprisoning three of them and accusing them of 'terrorism', including two of the most independent, J. S. Tissainayagam of the Sunday Times and N. Vithyatharan of the Uthayan press group. They are all being held without any evidence against them.�

The foreign press has found it harder than ever to work in the island. The brother of the president, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, threatened reprisals against the BBC and al Jazeera, after the two media did reports in the country. Photojournalists working for the international press were forced to flee the country after being threatened by army supporters. Several dozen journalists and free expression activists have also been driven into exile.�

The Amnesty International Report 2009, Sri Lanka, observed that "Journalists faced physical assaults, abductions, intimidation, harassment and being shot, by both government personnel and members of armed groups. Journalists and media workers in the north and east were particularly at risk."�

A press release by RSF issued on 8 January 2009 stated: "Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the murder of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, who was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle as he drove to work this morning in Colombo. 'Sri Lanka has lost one of its more talented, courageous and iconoclastic journalists,' Reporters Without Borders said. 'President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his associates and the government media are directly to blame because they incited hatred against him and allowed an outrageous level of impunity to develop as regards violence against the press.' President Rajapaksa called Wickrematunga a 'terrorist journalist' during an interview with a Reporters without Borders representative in Colombo, last October. �

The Sunday Leader's outspoken style and coverage of shady business deals meant that Wickrematunga was often the target of intimidation attempts and libel suits. The most recent lawsuit was brought by the president's brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who got a court to ban the newspaper from mentioning him for several weeks.

A press release issued by RSF on 21 January 2009 stated "The International Press Freedom Mission today condemned a 'culture of impunity and indifference' over killings and attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka.�

The killing of a senior editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, and the attack on the facilities of a popular independent TV channel have led to a total paralysis of the media community. Launching a new report, 'Media Under Fire: Press Freedom Lockdown in Sri Lanka', the International Mission criticised the Government over its inaction and failure to take the attacks, murder and assassination of reporters seriously. This has in turn led to an almost total blackout of independent and objective reporting from the North and East of Sri Lanka, which have seen the worst of the country's long-running civil war.

The RSF press release further noted: "According to the findings of the International Mission, reporters and editors conveying messages that are critical of the government's war against the LTTE are labelled as 'traitors' and 'terrorists' where they work in an increasingly hostile environment of censorship and fear. The International Mission is shocked at the repeated instances of elected representatives and Government Ministers using violent and inflammatory language against media workers and institutions. Not surprisingly this has led to widespread selfcensorship among journalists in order to protect their lives."�

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report 'Under Fire Press Freedom in South Asia 2008-2009' released on 3 May 2009 which contained inter alia - extensive details on the cases of Lasantha Wickrematunga and J.S. Tissainayagam, observed that "the Government deployed draconian counterterrorism laws to imprison and prosecute journalists" and added that " a signal seems to have been sent from the highest political level that verbal information on recent events and reports has been provided abuse of media workers and physical intimidation and attacks are fair tactics." �

On 1 June 2009 BBC News reported that the journalist Poddala Jayantha was in hospital with head and leg injuries after being abducted and beaten by unidentified attackers near his home in the Colombo suburb of Nugegoda. "Mr Jayantha campaigns for media freedom and is seen by government supporters as an opponent of the authorities. Critics in Sri Lanka's local media have come under extreme pressure in the past few years. Several independent journalists have been killed. The government is facing mounting criticism from press freedom groups for what they say is a failure to protect journalists from attacks and for the lack of prosecutions against those who do so." �

On 1 September 2009 Amnesty International (AI) reported: "A High Court in Sri Lanka sentenced journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam (JS) Tissainayagam to 20 years rigorous imprisonment on Monday for writing and publishing articles that criticized the government's treatment of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians affected by the war. The court said the articles caused 'racial hatred' and promoted terrorism. Amnesty International said that it considers JS Tissainayagam to be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression in carrying out his profession. JS Tissainayagam was the first Sri Lankan journalist to be formally charged (and now convicted) under the country's draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for his writing." �

Amnesty International also added that "JS Tissainayagam was arrested in March 2008 and detained in police custody for five months before he was charged with an offence. The prosecution also put forth as evidence an alleged confession made by Tissainayagam while in police custody. Tissainayagam maintains that he was tortured by the police and that the confession was forced. The Court ruled that the evidence was admissible. Sri Lanka has a long history of torture and ill treatment of prisoners. Under the PTA, the burden of proof rests with the accused to prove that the confession was made under duress or torture." �

On 13 January 2010, BBC News reported that JS Tissainayagam had been released on bail. "JS Tissainayagam, a Tamil, won his liberty at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday morning...His lawyer, MA Sumantharan, told the BBC that bail had been set at 50,000 Sri Lankan rupees ($440). Mr Tissainayagam also had to surrender his passport. Mr Sumantharan said he expected his client to remain out of prison until an appeal against his conviction is heard. The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says that is a process which is likely to take place in two years time - unless expedited by the attorney-general." �



Freedom of citizens, a free and responsible press, an independent judiciary and government's data information are the system which can be perceived to be the key to the enhancement of right to information and make the institutions of governance transparent and accountable. The right to information is closely tied to the accountability mechanism, for monitoring every action of government which leads to good governance, places the dominant actors of governance-the state, the market and civil society in balance, and monitors their performance as per the boundaries for action defined for them. Media thus perform vital tasks of informing, socializing, communicating and articulating the power of the public and preparing them for social transformation and good governance.

In Indian democracy media has a responsibility which is deeply associated with the socio economic conditions. The present scenario is not quite encouraging and certain areas need to be addressed. Media organisations, whether in print, audio visual, radio or web have to be more accountable to the general public. It should be monitored that professional integrity and ethical standards are not sacrificed for sensational practices. The freedom of press in the country is a blessing for the people. However, this blessing can go terribly wrong when manipulations set in. The self regulatory mechanism across media organisations need to be strong enough to stop anomalies whenever they occur. Agencies like Press Council of India need to be vigilant to stem the rot. Big media conglomerates are a serious threat. To counter this problem pluralistic media organisations which are financially viable need to be encouraged. Community participation is a goal that the media should strive for in a country like India.

Media as a key component of the civil society is testing the rights given to them in public affairs. The question then arises to the situation in Srilanka is: Is the right to information context free? And closely connected to this question is : Are the available acts sufficient to provide the public access to information on matters of public interest? The second question can hardly be answered in a definite tone, but the first question can be answered clearly in a negative light. Knowledge about the right to information is not context free. In Srilanka, one can easily guess how many people know about their fundamental rights and duties. Secondly, like per capita income, the instruments of media are unevenly distributed among the various geographic regions. The access to media of the people of Far-Western region and remote districts is virtually nil. This means they are less "visible" in policy and decision making affairs. Thirdly, the pervasive poverty syndrome of the Srilankan society and mal-development of the nation as a whole reflect certain imbalance. While Colombo and some areas are debating the "''globalization", and "information highway" and the links of the "'web-society"'' to outside world, the rural public in general debate the mundane matters, such as the basic needs, education, primary healthcare and irrigation.

The exploitative nature of the urban class has thus dissociated itself from the "diffusion effects of modernity" and, consequently, concentration of power, resource and communication implies a poor linkage with the life of ordinary citizens. Fourthly, the Information bill, which deals with comprehensively information access, is still pending in the parliament and has yet to be passed as an Act for legislative action. Fifthly, while the government media are controlled by the party in power and tend to produce "biased news and views"', majority of private media are run by individuals, business tycoons and politicians which articulate "private and partisan news and views", and therefore, fail to illuminate and enlighten the public. This means that media must act as a "public sphere", aimed to educate the people. Only then the people can be socialized into "citizenship" and then finally into "public" that is capable of making governance transparent and accountable. In conclusion it could be said that even after the war is over if the situation of media rights has not improved then it is done to gag the press as this shaky government proceeds to make savage attacks on the jobs, living standards and democratic rights of working people.�



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� Habermas. J, Information and democracy, 161,163 (Ed., F. Webster, Theories of the Information Society 2006).

� Donald L. Metz, The Importance of the Media, 10(3), 319,336 TEACHING SOCIOLOGY (2006).

� Global Media Journal, 21(3) INDIAN EDITION (June 2011).

� Pelinka. A, Democracy Indian Style: Subhas Chandra Bose and the creation of India's political culture, (2003).

� Corneo. G, Media Capture in a Democracy: The Role of Wealth Concentration, (2005).

� Corneo. G, Media Capture in a Democracy: The Role of Wealth Concentration, (2005).

� Bogart. L, Media and Democracy, 6,8 (ed., E. E. Dennis & R. W. Snyder 1996).

� Bogart. L, Media and Democracy, 6,8 (ed., E. E. Dennis & R. W. Snyder 1996).

� Coronel. S, The Role of the Media in Deepening Democracy, (2003).

� Coronel. S, The Role of the Media in Deepening Democracy, (2003).

� Kuwait Times, Egyptians on e-revolution, (2010), Available at,

� Jebaraj.P, Opinion: The spotlight is on the media now, THE HINDU (2010), Available at,

� Coronel. S, The Role of the Media in Deepening Democracy, (2003).

� Sri Lanka Revives Draconian Law to Gag Media, The Sunday Times, (1st July 2009).

� Sri Lanka Revives Draconian Law to Gag Media, THE SUNDAY TIMES, (1st July 2009).

� Freedom of Speech and Media Act, Srilanka.

� Supra, note 16.

� Country of Origin Information Report- Sri Lanka, UK Border Agency, (18th February 2010).

� Supra, note 18.

� Supra, note 14.

� The European Commission, Report on the findings of the investigation with respect to the effective implementation of certain human rights conventions in Sri Lanka, (19th October 2009).

� The Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 Country Reports, Sri Lanka,(1st May 2009).

� Supra, note 18.

� The U.S. State Department (USSD), Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2008, Sri Lanka, (25 February 2009).

� Ib.

� Supra, note 21.

� Supra, note 24.

� Supra,note 22.

� Id.

� Supra,note 18.

� Supra,note 18.

� The Amnesty International Report 2009, Sri Lanka (covering events frJanuary - December 2008), (28th May 2009).

� Supra,note 18.

� Supra, note 18.

� Supra, note 18.

� Supra, note 18.

� Id.

� Amnesty International, Silencing Dissent: Media Workers Under Attack in Sri Lanka, (2011).

� Id.

� Supra, note 18.