Without media freedom there can be no democracy, former Speaker and National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) Chairman Karu Jayasuriya said recently at a programme to commemorate abducted, missing and murdered journalists.
“Certain rights in a democratic society may have limitations in some instances, but if there is no media freedom, there cannot be democracy in a country. Sri Lanka has had a progressive media culture, with a history of almost two centuries,” he said.
Jayasuriya added that Sri Lanka also has a dark history, full of very unpleasant tragedies, when it comes to media freedom. The last few decades have been a particularly dark period and, during that era, journalists were killed, abducted, and retaliated, through various atrocities,” he said.
These are some excerpts of his speech: “Its impact was experienced in every area, be it the North and South, or East. We are well aware that the number of journalists, who were killed and disappeared, is many. Among them are Lasantha Wickramatunga, Prageeth Eknaligoda, Taraki Dharmeratnam Sivaram and Mylvaganam Nimalarajan. Many other journalists, such as Keith Noir, Poddala Jayantha and Gnanasundaram Kuganathan, were subjected to brutal attacks, during this period.
“At that time, the media institutions also faced a serious dangerous situation. There were instances where bomb attacks were carried out on media institutions, while some were set on fire. Among them were media institutions like Sirasa, Udayan and Siyatha.
“We have been talking about these tragedies for many years, but justice has not been served to any of them, until today. Why is that happening? We see the reason for this is that we have failed to reach a consensus on many nationally important issues. As the NMSJ, we always try to bring people together to create that consensus.
“Not only on democracy, people’s freedom, and security, we still pay less attention in carrying out many political and economic reforms that are necessary to get out of the serious economic crisis which has emerged in the country, at present, which we see as a national weakness.
“In order to create a better future, with no such dark eras, we, as a country, have to act with a common goal. We have also fulfilled many responsibilities for this. The Right to Information Act was brought, in amid various obstacles. It was of great help for many investigative journalists. During my tenure as Speaker of the Parliament, meetings of the Committee on Public Enterprise and Committee on Public Finance were opened to the media. I would like to emphasise, once again, that we should build a joint exercise among the people of all areas of the South, North, and upcountry, for a common purpose.
“It is my belief that journalists, and media organisations, too, have a great responsibility. As journalists, you can turn a thief into a hero, and a humble person into a thief, or a murderer. It is very important to engage in responsible media use. That is because there is no democracy in an environment where there is no media freedom, and in a society, where there is no responsible media, the country will have to face its consequences. I say this as someone who has an understanding of the depth of the economic and political crisis that our country is facing, at present, and its possible consequences.
Therefore, today we would like to remember the journalists who sacrificed their lives for their profession and were subjected to various harassments. We would also make an appeal that we will rally together to serve justice for all of them.”
Courtesy The Island
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