In many countries in Asia, perhaps because there seems to be a perception that with the media taking on new forms of conveying to the public, information which may not otherwise have been available, the power of the Print and Electronic Media has increased beyond all proportions, and become a powerful weapon, undermining the security and stability of States even at times when foreign powers had introduced restrictions on the Media.
There has always been a certain self-imposed ‘censorship’ because they are conscious of the special sense of responsibility resulting from the power they wield and because the public expects the Media to be fair, truthful and objective. But sadly this does not seem to often happen in practice, and prejudice enters and the national interest is often forgotten and imperilled. Therefore a Code of Ethics may be necessary but not one imposed by the government; the government must request all the media organisations in the country to summon a conference and come up with a Code of Ethics they should follow - this would be better than an imposed Code. But we should not forget the positive and vital role played by the Media in exposing corruption, ineptitude and unacceptable actions of governments – the Media like the Judiciary has a special obligation by the people to safeguard the national interest. The Media and we the people should also be empowered with the Right to Information to safeguard the public interest which is paramount.
" This particular clause in the Code, which I referred to above, which prohibits any publication which “Contains criticisms affecting Foreign Relations” is certainly not in the national interest and is nonsensical, we must have the right to comment "
I wish to take this opportunity to refer to one item in the Code that has been published which reads as follows: “Contains criticisms affecting Foreign Relations”; surely the government cannot be serious considering its record. Without offence to modesty I can state without fear of contradiction that I had the privilege of working closely with the late Lakshman Kadirgamar (who did not indulge in lecturing to those we met), and being associated, as the only Additional Foreign Secretary at the time covering International Relations; and this was at a time when the war was intense and we were being pilloried at the instance of the Tamil Diaspora - (no less than eighteen Resolutions were tabled in the European Parliament by the loony British Labour MEPs in a space of three years between 1984 and ’86). The Minister with the support of his professional Foreign Service Officers serving at the time was not only able to have the LTTE proscribed in the US and by the EU, but we did not also incur the hostility of western countries, which has taken unfair proportions today.
Our Mission in Washington at the time that Jayantha Dhanapala was our Ambassador in Washington was even able to get a positive Resolution passed in Congress. We did not need PR firms and we did not have to pay them thousands of hard earned USD to look after our interests. I presume if this imposed new Code is made into Law then I, along with the Editor of the Sunday Times, Sinha Ratnatunge who raised this ‘crime’ first in his paper would be prosecuted!! Incidentally he was also very nearly prosecuted once before by a previous government for seeking to safeguard the nation’s interest.
"Our Mission in Washington at the time that Jayantha Dhanapala was our Ambassador in Washington, was even able to get a positive Resolution passed in Congress. We did not need PR firms and we did not have to pay them thousands of hard earned USD to look after our interests "
Many Informed commentators have stated that our foreign relations are in a shambles and absolutely mismanaged. Therefore this particular clause in the Code, which I referred to above, which prohibits any publication which “Contains criticisms affecting Foreign Relations” is certainly not in the national interest and is nonsensical, we must have the right to comment on the management of our international relations in the national interest which certainly supersedes interests of governments ‘temporarily’ (Annichcha is the appropriate word is it not?) in power in any country.