Media Groups to Challenge New Restrictions
COLOMBO, Nov 3 (IPS) - Media groups in Sri Lanka, already restricted from covering the war against Tamil rebels in the north, are bracing to challenge new regulations that seek to control television broadcasting and new media.
The new rules, announced on Oct. 27, control content not only for broadcast but also MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), a form of news dissemination that is rapidly gaining in popularity. Newspapers on the weekend also reported government plans to bring in similar rules for radio broadcasting.
"Censorship, there is no doubt about it," warned Sunanda Deshapriya, spokesman for Sri Lanka's Free Media Movement (FMM), the most vibrant of several associations representing journalists, publishers and private broadcasters.
Deshapriya told IPS that media groups and civil society organisations plan to challenge the regulations in the Supreme Court before Nov. 10, the deadline for objections before the regulations take effect.
"These are draconian and repressive rules never before enforced in Sri Lanka," another journalist, who declined to be named, said. "For any excuse they (authorities) can cancel the licence, and if a news item is seen to be unfavourable to the government."
The new regulations provide the media minister, as the regulator, with powers to cancel licenses if content is ‘’detrimental to the interests of a national security; incites a break-down of public order; incites ethnic, religious or cultural hatred; is morally offensive or indecent; is detrimental to the rights and privileges of children’’, among other restrictions.
In a statement, the FMM said the ‘Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations’, seek to control new technology and bar foreigners from operating stations. Members of political parties may not seek licenses and the validity of all licenses are limited to one year.
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Published: Sun Nov 2 23:29:56 EST 2008