12 August 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and its Executive Director filed a complaint (Complaint No: HRC/3083/13) before the Human Rights Commissions of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) this afternoon against the Independent Television Network of Sri Lanka (ITN) and its Chairmen. The complaint was on the basis that a news item appearing on the 7:00pm Sinhala language news broadcast of ITN on Sunday 14th July 2013 violates several fundamental rights of both CPA and its Executive Director which are guaranteed under the Constitution to all citizens of Sri Lanka.
CPA had previously written to the Chairman of ITN on the 16th July 2013 requesting that the erroneous news report be corrected and a formal apology be tendered to both CPA and its Executive Director within one week. However neither of these two requests was acceded to.
Against the backdrop of the Ministry of Mass Media and Information attempting to introduce “a code of media ethics” for Private sector media institutions CPA finds it abhorrent that a state owned and publicly funded media institution would be allowed to engage in irresponsible, unprofessional and deceitful reporting of this nature. Even more troubling is the unwillingness of the said media institution to accept that a mistake has been made and take remedial action once the error has been brought to its attention.
The only possible explanation to this callous disregard of the most basic media ethics is that it is part of a larger scheme to systematically undermine civil society organizations perceived to be critical of the government. It is clear that the state media apparatus is being used as one of several instruments to intimidate civil society organizations.
The erroneous and fabricated news report of 14th July 2013 is only one of several instances in which CPA and other civil society actors have been intimidated using the state media apparatus. CPA hopes that the relief sought in its complaint –if granted- would result in the formulation of processes within state owned and publicly funded media institutions that would result in more accurate, fair and balance reporting and also act as a deterrent against malicious and fabricated reporting.
CPA is hopeful that the HRCSL will conduct a full and independent investigation into its complaint and grant reliefs prayed for therein.