GoSL’s new media code to further curtail free speech: HRW

Referring to the ‘Code of Media Ethics’ official proposed by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Mass Media and Information two days back, Human Rights Watch in a release on Wednesday criticised the proposal for its “overbroad and vague language that could have a severe and chilling effect on free speech”. Noting how the proposed code could be used to curtail any dissent to the government and referring to the already existing repression of journalists, HRW reported that “Violence remains a real fear for journalists, which is only heightened by impunity for perpetrators.” Arguing that the vagueness of this code would lead to self-censorship by many journalists, Brad Adams, Asia Director of HRW, also commented that “The code would hand the Sri Lankan authorities a new tool to harass and threaten journalists who are already working in a very difficult environment.”

“The government’s proposed media code is part of a sustained campaign to control the media and curtail dissent,” Mr. Adams said, adding that “Sri Lankan journalists are already under enormous pressure not to be critical of the government, and the vagueness of this code will likely lead to greater self-censorship to avoid government retaliation.”

The HRW release was also apprehensive of the possible misuse of this code by the Sri Lankan state, in that “The code contains 13 types of substantive speech that would be prohibited from publication, including content that vaguely ‘offends against expectations of the public, morality of the country, or tend to lower the standards of public taste and morality.’

“Also prohibited would be any content that ‘contains material against the integrity of the Executive, Judiciary, and Legislative’ – which could be interpreted as barring criticism of the government. The code also restricts content that ‘contains criticism affecting foreign relations,” which could lead to sanctions for reporting on international criticism of Sri Lankan government actions.’”

#impunity #selfcensorship #perpetrators #Violence #HumanRights #freespeech

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