Media Ministry Secretary Charitha Herath yesterday emphasized that the introduction of the ‘Right to Information Act’ couldn’t be at the expense of national security. In spite of the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, the government couldn’t share everything, the Media Secretary said. Herath was responding to queries raised by those participating at the SAARC Media Internship Programme (SMIP) for journalists and media officials, at the Galadari hotel.
The seven–day SMIP began on Saturday (28).
Addressing the participants on the second day of the programme, Herath explained the circumstances under which various interested parties, including external elements, could jeopardise national security by seeking sensitive information.
Herath pointed out the difficulty in sharing minutes pertaining to confidential meetings et al when he was told both India and Bangladesh had enacted legislation to ensure that the public are given access to government information.
Herath asserted that the Right to Information Act could be a powerful tool in the hands of interested parties. Responding to another query, the Media Secretary said that countries had to be careful as interested parties could seek information which couldnbe divulged without undermining national security.
Herath said that people could write to government institutions seeking information, though Sri Lanka was yet to enact the Right to Information Act. However, Herath indicated the readiness on the part of the government to look at the issue.
Asked whether there had been foreign direct investment (FDI) in the media industry, Herath said that such investment wasn’t known, though the mobile sector received FDI.
The Media Secretary asserted that the media, too, could be partly responsible for losing public respect due to its coverage of some issues. The outspoken official highlighted the possibility of some influential people using a section of the media to promote their disputed agendas.
By Shamindra Ferdinando