The National Movement for a Just Society says it is studying the ongoing dialogue on a purported draft for an electronic media regulatory commission with interest.
In a statement by its chief Karu Jayasuriya, the Movement says the common consensus is that the issuance of broadcasting licenses and the allocation of frequencies in Sri Lanka are highly questionable.
The country has so far failed to establish a proper regulatory body, which safeguards media freedom at the same time, he says.
There is a need for a regulatory mechanism that also encourages an ethical media culture and that ensures the state receives its dues from broadcasting licenses and from the allocation of frequencies, it adds.
The Movement itself has been deliberating on the matter, with a recent dialogue taking place on the need for independent regulation of the electronic media for the common good of the country.
Full text of the statement is as follows.
"The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) is currently studying the discussion going on in the society regarding the document that has been presented in the form of a Bill prepared for the setting up of the Electronic Media Regulatory Commission.
The existence of the electronic media institutions as well as the role played by them are of crucial importance for the well-being of the country. It is undoubtedly a media structure that should be promoted and protected based on the right of the people to express their opinions, and the right to information.
It is noteworthy that both State and private electronic media organisations use frequencies, which is a limited public resource. Every country in the modern world calculates them with a high value and allocate them among each institution under a licence system. It is strictly ensured that the relevant process is carried out in accordance with a proper system based on the well-being of the country. By doing so, it is also expected to get a large contribution to the State income.
Certain measures adopted in granting licences, and allocating frequencies for electronic media institutions in Sri Lanka are extremely questionable. Moreover, we as a country, have so far failed to set up a regulatory body with a clear and specific method, despite many incidents of media ethics being violated, and certain institutions working with power politics and economic interests.
The country needs a proper regulatory mechanism in issuing licences, allocating frequencies for radio and television channels, collecting the relevant payments, and raising the professionalism of journalists. Such a mechanism should however be introduced through a fair and proper procedure. We emphasise that the fundamental basis of that process should be to protect media freedom.
We focused on this matter through the 132nd discussion organised by the NMSJ. The general opinion of all its participants including resource persons was that it is necessary to refer to a clear work order for the regulation of electronic media. They were of the view that there should be a system based on the well-being of the country without undue influence of Governments and other authorities to implement the related processes.
We request all responsible parties to take into consideration the suggestions and opinions of all parties in relation to this matter. The Bill which has been prepared by the Cabinet Sub Committee, the Bill issued in 2018 by the committee chaired by Prof. Rohan Samarajiva appointed to formalise the issuance of radio and television licences, and the proposals presented by the media institutions and other organisations should be considered.
It is our suggestion that the Bill proposed by the Cabinet Sub Committee be circulated among the public, and their suggestions and opinions be taken into account in the process of going ahead with the same."