Declaration on Media Situation in Sri Lanka

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Journalists’ unions and associations from 13 Asian countries, meeting in Colombo from December 1-3rd 2003 under the auspices of the International Federation of Journalists global campaign Public Broadcasting for All, having considered the situation facing media in Sri Lanka,


That the creation of tolerant, peaceful and just society depends upon the freedom of citizens to have access to quality media that respect the principles of pluralism, diversity and universal respect for human rights.

We believe that the political and social crisis in Sri Lanka requires a unified national approach to the creation of a participatory democracy that includes all sections of society.

With this in mind, the meeting agrees that media have a vital role to play and concludes that urgent actions are needed to reform the state media sector with the following objectives:

  • To remove all forms of direct political control over the public service media

  • To create a framework for the administration of public service media, in line with international standards, through ethical, accountable and financially transparent structures

  • To support editorial self-regulation by journalists and media professionals that will promote editorial independence and high standards of accuracy, reliability and quality in information services.

    The meeting welcomes the Government’s willingness to embrace a policy of reform and the President’s proposal for political consensus and the establishment of an Independent Media Council as crucial first steps in this process.

    We further urge that the national dialogue on these issues should ensure that

  • All sections of civil society are consulted;

  • Journalists’ and media unions are fully engaged in the process;

  • There is respect for labour rights of journalists and media staff throughout media

  • There is commitment to editorial independence and the right of journalist to act in line with international ethical standards.

    Additionally, it is essential for a national media landscape to be created, including the private sector, which respects editorial independence, labour rights and the right of journalists and media workers to join a union, and which is accountable to the community.

    The meeting recognises the social and professional responsibility of journalists in this process and believes that confidence building measures such as training and raising awareness of professional ethical standards and the need for pluralism and diversity are needed.

    Therefore, the meeting calls upon the IFJ and other international supporters of media freedom to support further projects and activities to improve professional capacity of journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka. In this work the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU), the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and the Free Media Movement (FMM) are key partners.

    Finally, the meeting believes that all sides must recognise that reform of media is an integral part of the movement towards a final and peaceful reform of the political and constitutional structure in Sri Lanka.

    Colombo, December 2nd 2003