The Minister of Mass Media and Information, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, in Gazette Extraordinary dated 10th October, reveals the overarching magic that is the Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations of 2007.
Section 13(e), lists outs the conditions under which the license given to a TV broadcasting company can be cancelled. Namely, they are the broadcasting of programmes that are,
- detrimental to the interests of national security;
- inciting breakdown of public order;
- inciting ethnic, religious or cultural hatred;
- in violation of any laws of the country;
- morally offensive or indecent;
- detrimental to the rights and privileges of children;
- in violation of the code of ethics, standards and practices of Television Broadcasting.
Whilst 4 and 6 I can understand, everything all else falls into areas and issues already used by the State to curb the freedom of expression and stifle independent media. All these points are open to arbitrary interpretation by the Minister and we know through bitter experience how the Rajapakse regime interprets ‘national security’, public order, hatred and (somewhat ironically) morality and decency.
The cancellation of the license lies also wholly at the discretion of the Minister who is the same bloke who said that only one journalist had been killed in 2007.Â
The Mahinda Chinthanaya, the 2005 election manifesto of the President, promises that “… State media will be made to be the highest example in the use of independent and responsible media, and towards this, the state media will be de-politicized”.Â It’s evident that the President has failed to deliver. Worse, aided and abetted by him, brutish and self-serving members of the Government have managed to politicize the state media in an unprecedented manner and at the same time silenceÂ independent, critical voices in the media.
Forget about the promised duty free computers, forget about the duty free cars and motor cycles, forget about building houses and scholarships.
Just keep your dirty fingers off my TV please.