SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa says proposed legislation seeks to destroy remnants of the country’s democracy
Assures every measure possible to defeat it will be taken in and outside Parliament
Freedom People’s Congress Member Prof. G.L. Peiris warns ‘Tsunami’ of public opposition is on the rise against the law
Says Opposition, media, civil society will form broad platform to defeat it
National People’s Party calls bill an attempt to tame media and urges people to oppose undemocratic efforts to curtail media freedom
By Maneshka Borham
The executive council of the Opposition led by the main Opposition party, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday declared it will unanimously oppose the newly proposed Broadcasting Authority Act.
Announcing the decision of the council, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said the parties will work together in Parliament and outside to defeat the proposed legislation which seeks to destroy the remnants of the country’s democracy. “We will take every measure possible to oppose and defeat the Broadcasting Authority Act,” Premadasa said.
“A free media is the fourth pillar in a democracy. The world accepts free media as the fourth check and balance while strengthening the democratic system through checks and balances of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary,” he noted.
The Opposition Leader accused the Government of attempting to destroy free media through the newly proposed legislation. He said the draft bill violates the constitution and is anti-democratic. “It is rigid and will hamper the freedom of the people,” he said. “All media organisations must band together to defeat it,” he said.
Premadasa said steps must be taken to ensure the protection of the freedom of media and defeat the many death blows being dealt to the country’s democracy.
He also accused the executive of hosting lavish dinners to the great discomfort of judges at a time several critical cases are being heard before the courts. “We urge the executive to refrain from exerting such influence on the independent judiciary and impartial judges and to not carry out actions that undermine the confidence of the people of the country,” he said.
Freedom People’s Congress (FPC) announced it will go to court against the proposed law. FPC Member MP Prof. G.L. Peiris said his faction along with the Opposition will not allow the enactment of legislation that seeks to prevent elections and curtail media freedom in the country.
“Our fight to protect media freedom will commence from the courts. We will then bring the entire Opposition, media and civil society groups to a broad platform to defeat these condemnable efforts of the Government,” he said. The MP warned that a ‘Tsunami’ of public opposition is on the rise and the Government will not be allowed to carry out its acts of suppression.
The National People’s Power (NPP) also held a press conference yesterday regarding the controversial law now drawing widespread criticism.
“It is an attempt to tame the media to achieve the Government’s political aims,” NPP Member Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa alleged. The MP slammed the makeup of the proposed regulatory authority under the act and said invariably the regulator will end up doing the bidding of the President. He also found issues with the wide-ranging powers to be vested with the proposed five-member commission.
“The aim of the Government is clear. They wish to curtail the people’s freedom of speech, expression and assembly. What they attempted to do with the proposed anti-terror legislation and what they are doing with the ICCPR act is clear,” he said.
He also accused the Government of attempting to prevent the flow of correct information to the people through the proposed law. “We oppose the attempt to allow a Direct General appointed by the President to regulate the media. We urge people to oppose this undemocratic effort to curtail the freedom of the media” he said.