Fully fledged Media Commission by June – DGI

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By 2017-01-27

By Ravi Ladduwahetty

The government will soon establish a Media Commission, which will come into effect by June this year, Director-General of Government Information Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya said yesterday

"The aim of the proposed Media Commission, while protecting journalists and Editors, would also be to regulate the social media and subjects such as hate speech, defamation and other criteria, which are perceived to be preventing ethnic harmony, Dr. Kalansooriya told Ceylon Today last night.

He said, "there is an alarming trend, even internationally, of people using instruments such as Facebook to publish false propaganda for which they get paid for publishing malicious information which will be defamatory and that was what we are trying to guard against."

Media Minister and Government Spokesman Gayantha Karunatilleke and Deputy Minister Karu Paranavithana will soon meet the Heads of all Media Institutions, print, broadcast and telecast to apprise them of these developments.

He said that this proposed Media Commission was a separate institution and nothing to do with the Right to Information Act or the Right to Information Commission which had already begun operations, even ahead of the official declaration which was 3 February.

Asked how the Government was going to regulate the social media, he said that there was no regulatory mechanism for the social media in any part of the world. However, there were complaints that there was a system which was now applicable in social media like Face Book which are defamatory, where the stories are planted and which are being placed on payment which are vituperative, malicious. He said, "We will be starting with the locally registered webs. There has already been a flagging project to prevent fake news in social media. There is also another similar programme initiated by the BBC to counter fake news. We are currently studying these systems for the betterment of the Sri Lankan media. We are looking at three specific areas – hate speech, defamation and stories which disturb ethnic harmony.

He also said that there was no shortage of funds like some of the other permanent Commissions such as the Human Rights Commission which was running out of funds and that the RTI Commission had the blessings and the approval of President Maithripala Sirisena and that the funds were coming from Parliament. There is no such issue there. There is funding from the World Bank and the UNDP, he said.

When pointed out that Deputy Media Minister Karunaratne Paranavithana had assured the media that Criminal Defamation will not be brought in again but there was speculation of it being brought in again, he said that it was also under discussion by the Government and was in the discussion paper which was also in the news.lk website.

(See full interview on Page 9)




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