Journos cry foul over P’ment Privileges Act; Accuse Govt. of witch-hunt against the media, oppose PSC probing journos’ reporting.
The President of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), Duminda Sampath said yesterday (20) that no one will be able to report on what happens in Parliament in the future as the Government is plotting a witch-hunt against the media in the guise of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act.
He said this while speaking at a media briefing held in Colombo yesterday to express their opposition to the Parliamentary debate which is to take place today (21) on the alleged violation of the privileges of Parliamentarians due to the malpractices of the media.
“A debate which can be a threat for the freedom of expression is to take place tomorrow (21) to discuss the violation of the privileges of lawmakers due to the malpractices of the media. They have decided to summon journalists before a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to prosecute them, but we stopped it. But now, they have again added it to the agenda. This will be a bad example if the journalists are punished for reporting what happened in Parliament,” he said.
Speaking at the same press conference, a Working Committee Member of the SLWJA, Lasantha Ruhunage said that before taking action against journalists who violated the so-called privileges of MPs, the Government must take necessary actions against MPs who violated the privileges of their fellow MPs. “In 2018, we know what happened in Parliament after then President and incumbent Opposition MP Maithripala Sirisena toppled the United National Party led Government (by sacking then Prime Minister and incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe) and the whole country witnessed how they behaved. After that incident, then Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya appointed a committee to investigate the incident and that committee submitted their proposals to Parliament. According to the recommendations of the said committee, plenty of lawmakers including the incumbent Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena had behaved in violation of the privileges enjoyed by other MPs. So, the question is when the Government is going to take action against them. We must ask the Government to not intimidate journalists using baseless points,” he added.
Meanwhile, the President of the Sri Lanka Chapter of the South Asian Free Media Association, Lakshman Gunesekara said that the main attacker of the free media movement is the Government in power, adding that it is a constant fact in countries like Sri Lanka.
The Parliament had previously decided to summon journalist Lal Hemantha Mawalage before a PSC regarding his views expressed on television on the President’s statement about the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.