Media Release: Sri Lanka /June 23, 2011
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is dismayed to learn that a freedom of information law proposed in Sri Lanka has been overwhelmingly defeated by the government majority in the country’s parliament.
The Right to Information Bill, presented by opposition United National Party deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya on June 21, was defeated by a majority of 63 votes in the 225-member assembly of which President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance holds a two-thirds majority.
The Bill seeks to provide free access to official information, the establishment of a Freedom of Information Commission and specifies the procedure for making request for information and the grounds on which requests may be denied, reports said.
The government made undertakings in 2007 to a delegation of the Free Media Movement, an IFJ affiliate, that a similar bill would be enacted at the end of the country’s bitter civil war.
The UNP had wished to present the bill almost one year ago but the government requested that it be held back, as the government would present a more comprehensive bill within six months.
“The right to information is a fundamental democratic right, not a privilege of government,” the IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
“The decision by the Sri Lanka government to block a bill designed to enshrine the right to information is an ominous move where media freedom remains in serious peril.
“The IFJ urges the Sri Lanka government to honour its promise and ensure a comprehensive Right to Information Law is enacted without delay.”