For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Media Secretary Charitha Herath said yesterday that the government was in the process of introducing a comprehensive code of ethics, for both print and electronic media, in accordance with its overall aim to streamline the industry.
Addressing representatives of print and electronic media, at the Media Ministry, Herath displayed a draft titled ‘media ethics’, which he said would be made available to the industry soon to pave the way for discussion. Assuring that all concerned parties would be consulted, Herath said existing rules and regulations governing the media, too, could be accommodated in the proposed draft.
Asked whether a brand new code was being offered to the industry, Herath said that he had revised an existing plan taking into consideration the current situation. The media ministry wanted to engage the media instead of blindly enforcing new laws, Herath said, adding his effort was to reach an understanding with the media.
A dialogue within the industry was necessary to ensure the media wouldn’t be influenced by business and political factors, the official said. The media had the power to manipulate a particular situation to the advantage of any party regardless of the consequences, hence a code of ethics for the media could not be further delayed, he said.
Commenting on the responsibility of the media to be accurate as much as it could, Herath alleged that some of those in the media couldn’t even differentiate between fact and opinion. The issue here was not whether a particular news item was advantageous to the government or the Opposition but its accuracy, Herath said.
Responding to a query, the Media Secretary said that fierce competition and rivalry among media outfits, particularly electronic, couldn’t be at the expense of the truth. Herath lambasted some television stations for their coverage of violence, natural disasters as well as rape, child abuse and suicide. Those at the helm at print and electronic media organizations should be accountable for what was going on, he said, while strongly criticising both state and private television stations for promoting various products through doctors, specialists and experts.
Herath also pointed out the absurdity in propping up soothsayers through the electronic media.
Opinion on any incident or situation should be based on fact not fiction, he said, while emphasizing the responsibility on the part of the media to be accurate as much as possible.
When The Island inquired about how successive governments provided journalists and various other media personalities with a range of perks and privileges, including housing, banks loans, car loans and paid taxes on behalf of journalists, Herath said that state assistance was provided due to the media being a priority group. Herath defended the facilities made available to the media at the taxpayers’ expense. The Media Secretary compared state assistance given to the media to support extended to those in the film, television and music fields.
By Shamindra Ferdiando