Increased costs hurting Sri Lankan media houses

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says financially vulnerable media houses in Sri Lanka have been subject to further pressures as increased costs passed on from banks and financial institutions threatens their sustainability.

A report by IFJ on the state of the media in Sri Lanka said that change of ownership has often resulted in rapid changes in editorial policies and personnel in the Sri Lankan media.

The report highlights some of the incidents involving the Sri Lankan media which took place this year including the removal of the Chief Editors of The Ceylon Today and The Sunday Leader newspapers.

IF says it’s partners in Sri Lanka have been campaigning for media freedom to be recognised as an essential part of the process of national reconciliation, following the end of the country’s quarter-century long civil war in 2009.

However it says their efforts are yet to be recognised, since few reforms have been implemented in the media sector and the recommendations of a high-level commission on national reconciliation remain largely on paper.

Media reporting on the process of resettlement and rehabilitation in the country’s Northern Province, which suffered the worst ravages of the civil war, has often been impeded by security personnel who continue to be deployed there. And far from assuring accountability for the number of attacks and killings of journalists during the war, the pattern of violence has persisted in the years following.

Journalists and human rights defenders are often attacked by official spokespeople on government-controlled media channels, contributing to an atmosphere of intolerance for even legitimate criticism of the government. Websites that carry news and current affairs content on Sri Lanka have been subject to arbitrary rules of registration and in some cases, to police raids and seizure of equipment.

The revival of the Press Council of Sri Lanka is seen to embody a very real coercive intent on the part of the government, since the 1973 law under which the body is constituted conceives of a number of possible sanctions against the media, including the power to prosecute under various provisions of criminal law.

The Sri Lanka Press Complaints Commission, a self-regulatory body set up by the media industry, has been seeking to establish its credentials as an institution that is fully equipped to deal with current challenges.