FMM expresses concern over present crisis

Nov 13 (InfoLanka) The Free Media Movement (FMM) has expressed concern over the situation in the state media institutions following the President's takeover of three key ministries.

A statement by the Free Media Movement said:

The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply concerned about the uncertain situation in the country after the President's take over of three key ministries on November 4, 2003. The Ministries of Defence, Interior and Mass Communications were taken over by the President citing security concerns.

FMM is very concerned over the adverse effects this move can have on media freedom in particular and democratic rights in general by the uncertain political environment.

FMM is further concerned about the inevitable repercussions that could result from the take over of the information ministry under which all powerful state media institutions function.

Following the undemocratic tradition of appointing political supporters of the governing party to the high posts of state media, the President in this instance changed the senior officials and directors of state media institutions overnight.

In some instances the staff have been thrown out and doors forced open by the new political bosses of the state media. Changes in the reporting are already visible, as usual it has become a one party propaganda again. Newly appointed heads of state media entered media institutions accompanied by armed soldiers and armed personnel of the Presidential Security Division.

Furthermore appointments to the ITN and Lake House had been done outside the legal framework. This development could be a very dangerous precedent and may affect the media environment of the institutions. Therefore the FMM condemns the use of armed forces by heads of state media institutions in this instance."

FMM has persistently called for the democratisation of state media bringing them under independent media commission and transforming them into truly public service media. Both the UNP and SLFP have promised to make the state media into a public service when they were in opposition, they however failed to carry out any far reaching changes, either in editorial polices or governing structures after coming to power.

While renewing its call to democratise the state owned media FMM requests all media outlets including the state owned media in the country to be balanced in reporting the current crisis so that citizens may be able to make informed judgements.

At the same time FMM requests the government not to sack any journalists working in the state media institutions on political grounds.