Media organizations urge not to suppress media using Parliamentary Powers & Privileges law 



A collective of several media organizations have stated that there are attempts to suppress media activity using Parliamentary Powers and Privileges law against journalists.

The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, the Free Media Movement, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, the Tamil Media Alliance, the Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association and the South Asian Free Media Association – Sri Lanka Chapter have issued a joint letter directed to the Speaker – Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena in this regard.

Noting that they “remain strongly opposed to and condemn any attempts to summon journalists before the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges for fulfilling their journalistic and social responsibility obligations,” the Media Organizations Collective urges the Speaker to “not to contribute to the government’s efforts to suppress the media using the powers and privileges of Parliament.”

“When Parliament met on February 08, Member of Parliament D. Weerasinghe cited an article in the Sunday Lankadeepa newspaper dated January 28, 2024, headlined ‘Supreme Court amendments not in Online Safety Act; Opposition demands meeting of party leaders before Speaker signs it’ as having breached his privileges as a member who voted for the Bill and requested the Speaker to direct the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges to take appropriate action. In response, you had stated the request would be presented to the Committee as a question of privilege,” the collective points out.

“We, as leading media organisations in Sri Lanka who are signatories to this letter, wish to inform you that while alert to the government’s contemptible efforts to use parliamentary powers and privileges to stifle media freedom, unequivocally condemn all attempts to suppress people’s rights to know the truth by intimidating journalists,” they emphasize.

“We, as leading media organizations, question how reporting on demands made by the opposition regarding the Online Safety Act or any other Act, can be deemed a breach of parliamentary privileges of MPs. Our conviction is that the media has tried to report on the fundamental rights violation of the people in the hopes of rectifying it, not questioning the parliamentary powers and privileges of its members.  This is the role of the media.  This is fulfilling its social responsibility,” the letter says.

“Your decision to refer the matter related to the news report to the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges is an unwelcome surprise.  However, we take this opportunity to inform you that we are keenly watching the government’s efforts to suppress the media using an obsolete law with no specific provisions for ‘trial and punishment’. Your action is an obstruction to the right of journalists to report freely and also impinges on the right of the public to true and accurate information,” it adds.

The full letter is as follows :


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