Section of the on line media in Sri Lanka has come out supporting the order by the Government of Sri Lanka to register news websites.
Speaking to weekend Sunday Leader Freddy Gamage, Convener, Professional Web Journalists Association has come out strongly in foavour the registration. His main concern is to get the privileges and rights from the government. This is what he has said: ” Even when the former government was in power, we said we were not against registering websites. We are only asking that we are entitled to all relevant privileges and rights. Our main request has been that the registration fee be reduced but it has not happened yet. If we are to receive the privileges that other journalists enjoy, we should get registered first”
Strangely he has lamented that they do not get subsidies for Motorbikes for the government. he has said that “today most of the news websites do not receive official news. They do not receive invitations to government press briefings. They do not get concessions that other journalists receive such as media ID cards, subsidies for motorbikes and so on. By registering, we should be entitled to receive these privileges and media journalistic rights.”
Sri Lanka Brief Note:
Gamage does not understand that freedom of expression rights does not come from the government but they are inherit rights of the people. Although he talks about creating ethics for web media he does not understand asking for privileges from any government goes against basic media ethics. He has even supported the Rajapaksa web registration order, which was a clear attempt to control web media.
Chief Editor of the Sri Lanka Mirror, Kelum Shivantha Rodrigo too has taken the same position. This is what he has said: “We, Sri Lanka Mirror, have been for registering websites since the beginning. When it came initially in that way, we applied for registration. No sooner than we submitted our application, we received registration. Only 24 websites got registered the first time. We are the seventh on the list. At that time too, we did not go against the registration of websites.
He says only issue is the web registration annul fee of Rs. 10,000.
According to him only unregistered web sites publish websites false or mud-slinging reports. So, I. as a website editor, see many privileges in registering with the government, he says.
In the same article Free Media Movement and Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association has taken a different view.
C. Dodawatta secretary of the Free Media Movement says that ” these types of decision may not help improve media freedom. Such decisions must be taken via discussions and agreements with all stakeholders. Government alone must not take such decision.”
President, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association president Lasantha Ruhunage says that ” the decision to register websites was first brought by the former Rajapaksa government. Their attempt was like a covert threat that said only those who get their websites registered can be in the field and others cannot. The same threat is present with the ads that this government published in newspapers. Therefore, we have to ask this government the same question that we asked the former government; whether they are trying to restrict media freedom by bringing in new proposals.”
Ruhunage criticises the providing privileges to journalists by the government: “The way the government treats the media is pathetic. They think that giving privileges and subsidies to journalists will protect media freedom. This assumption is totally wrong. The previous government did the same thing, but they lost.”
President of the Muslim Media Forum N. M. Ameen too is critical of the web registration order. He says that Due to websites, democracy prevails. Via them, anyone can make public his/her views. . Sometimes, registering can be a problem for those web journalists who carry out their media practice in an honest manner. Many are airing views on the increase of registration fees as well. But it must be noted that via registering, web journalists too may get privileges and concessions. But if the objective of registration is to control websites, we cannot accept that.”
Full interviews can be read here Sunday Leader