Jan 19, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government plans introduce a voluntary code of conduct for the state as well as private media and the Media Ministry is currently in the process of drafting the code, the Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information Charitha Herath said Friday.
The proposed code, currently being drafted with participation of all stake holders, plans to introduce new guidelines to all electronic and print media, the Secretary has said when he met with news directors and editors of print, TV and radio and electronic media organizations to discuss improving ethics among the industry, especially when reporting crimes.
"This is not a law but a voluntary process intended to be completed with the inclusiveness of all stake holders The Ministry expects suggestions also from the people who practically run the news in media organizations," the Government Information Department quoted the Secretary as saying.
One of the main issues was the sensationalism in Sri Lankan media when reporting crimes, especially murder and rape, and the Secretary has discussed measures to reduce sensationalism in reports. Also not publishing the names and photos of the victims of reservations in showing suspects and grieving family have been highlighted during the discussion.
The Secretary has suggested the media personnel to not to succumb to pressures from the individual political and commercial agendas but preserve and promote moral standards and values of the society in general.
The media personnel have highlighted the difficulties in receiving information from senior public officials which often lead to misunderstandings and inaccurate reports and suggested to train the spokespersons and other officials in-charge of providing information to media in government institutions to provide competent linkages to the media.
Such measures would assure the media to have access to necessary information and media outlets would therefore provide credible reports.
Press freedom is a major concern in Sri Lanka and the present government has come under severe global criticism for stifling the media.
Critics of Sri Lanka say since the end of the war in May 2009, there has been a definite slide to control all media outlets, independent and privately owned media as well as state-run agencies.
Sri Lanka dropped down in World Press Freedom Index last year and ranked among the 20 worst countries.
The Paris based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said last year that official censorship of independent news sites in Sri Lanka put an end to pluralism and contributed more than ever to self-censorship by almost all media outlets.
a slow and steady slide into a stifling reporting that the government does not like.. The Sunday Leader actually is a classic example of what happened.