For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
2009-11-11 | 12.05 PM
The closure of the head office maintained by the Free Media Movement (FMM) and several other media organizations has resulted in the FMM losing an office space to carry out its operations. The FMM and the other media organizations maintained a head office down Flower Road, Colombo 7 utilizing funds received for several projects including reporting on human rights.
However, at FMM’s last AGM, a founder member of the FMM, Director of the Sri Lanka Press Institute and a member of the Reuters news agency in Colombo, Waruna Karunathileka claimed the FMM did not need foreign projects as the organization was not interested in earning money. He said there was no need for money from foreigners as the main aim of the organizations was
to fight for the protection of democracy and media freedom.
FMM members who endorsed such thinking agreed with Karunathileka.
Therefore, the FMM is now unable to maintain an office since the organization has stopped most of the projects undertaken on earlier occasions. Most of the immovable properties that belonged to the FMM have now been taken to the residences of some office bearers for their personal use. Another lot of cupboards, tables and files have been stacked in the Sri Lanka Press Institute garage.
However, it is doubtful if the Sri Lanka Press Institute has not bothered to allocate space for the FMM to carry out its work due to the large funds from foreigners and NGOs accepted by the Institute for its functions.
The FMM did not have a permanent office for its operations since its inception and always functioned with the help of NGOs like Inform, Merge and the Center for Policy Alternatives. Following the resent internal squabbles in the organization, the current FMM office bearers found it difficult to maintain an office space for its operations.
The current office bearers and convener acted in violation of the FMM constitution when they extended their period in office by a year claiming they needed time to inquire into the alleged financial irregularities that had taken place in the organization during the past few years. The current convener in his actions to extend the period of office of the current office bearers even ignored the nominations forwarded to the FMM before the AGM.
The convener has now taken home a lap top and three computer key boards belonging to the FMM. While three tables have been given to the Ravaya newspaper office, another computer and table have been donated to the President of the Lanka Teacher Services Union. Some other equipment belonging to the FMM have now been given for the personal use of another office bearer.
However, the present functions of the FMM have not posed a major shock to any one. The truth behind the strategic elimination of the FMM, which has played a key role in fighting for the protection of the media, is no longer a secret. The irony is in the manner in which the leadership of the FMM is trying to win media freedom by falling at the King’s feet.
The article is open for discussion.
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