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Govt. to introduce mechanism to regulate social media

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Dissemination of false information and promotion of racism

Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella told the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Mass Media on Saturday that a proper mechanism to regulate websites would be introduced within the next two weeks.

A member of the Committee MP Suren Raghavan said the promotion of racism and dissemination of false information through social media should be curbed. Minister of Education Prof. G. L Peiris said that a new law had been passed in Singapore to control such matters and that such legislation should be studied prior to formulation of a new mechanism here.

Rambukwella said that the Press Council Act should be amended to help protect the dignity of the citizens and that the rights of all citizens should be protected by the media.

MP Prof. Charitha Herath said that the amendments to the Press Council Act had been discussed at the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Mass Media. He also said that a proper mechanism should be formulated to regulate television and radio as well.

SJB MP Manusha Nanayakkara said that there was a need to reactivate the self-regulatory system for media institutions, which was discussed in 2015.

Discussions were also held regarding resuming the telecast of Parliamentary sessions through Channel Eye of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. The Committee also focused on the importance of recognising journalists as professionals, the establishment of a minimum wage scheme for journalists, deploying graduates in Mass Communication to related vacancies, and the appointment of teachers to teach Mass Media as a subject.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella pointed out that six chairmen had been appointed to the Independent Television Network (ITN) during the last four years. By 2014 ITN was the number one channel according to surveys but the state media institutions were running at a loss during the previous regime. It would take two years to make them profit-making ventures, he said.

The Minister said that providing educational scholarships to journalists and media equipment at concessionary rates along with multiple welfare activities would be implemented.

Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media Jagath P. Wijeweera informed the committee that an insurance scheme for journalists would be introduced along with the establishment of a journalism college in the coming year.



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JVP accuses EC of conspiring to delay LG polls

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, has told Parliament that the Election Commission and its Chairman are collaborating with the government to postpone the local government elections.

Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023, on Friday, MP Dissanayake said that as local government bodies should be reconstituted before March 20 2023, the Election Commission had to publish a gazette calling nominations by late December or early January.

“The EC has the authority to do so. It has sought the Attorney General’s opinion on some matters. There is no need at all for it to seek the AG’s advice,” he said.

“This is a conspiracy. The Elections Commission can publish the gazette even tomorrow. It is clear that the Elections Commission is collaborating with the government,” he said.

Dissnayake said that Election Commissioner Nimal Punchihewa’s impartiality was in question. “We know where Punchihewa worked before and at what party office. We know the governments and persons he has worked with closely. He is not an independent person.”

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Diana wants bars open 24/7

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By Saman Indrajith

State Tourism Minister Diana Gamage says liquor outlets should be kept open longer if the country wants to boost tourism.Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023 on Friday, State Minister Gamage said: “We have to keep these places open 24/7. I have spoken about it many times. Liquor is the highest tax earner in the country. In this paradise, we are closing bars after 11pm. Foreigners in hotels can’t get any alcohol if they need, because all the places are closed.

We need to keep this country open 24 hours. Like Singapore and other countries, people must have entertainment.”

“I talk about the night life, and when I talked about that earlier many criticized it and saw it as a big sin. That is ones who are incapable of understanding it,” she said.

“What we call night life is actually a night economy. All the countries in the world have developed because of night economy. These countries get 70 percent of their income from the nigh economy. They only get 30 percent during the day time. We have to develop a night economy in this country. That will earn 70 percent of the income. Only that can develop this country.

“We can do that. And also our museum, that closes at 5 pm. In other countries, museums earn most during night. It must be opened 24/7.  This night economy is essential for a country’s economy. People must have places to spend their money.”

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SJB asks govt. to introduce political reforms fast

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has asked the government when it will introduce the political reforms demanded by the international community.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Kiriella said that when the Opposition parties met the members of the Colombo-based diplomatic community during the Aragalaya protests, the latter had demanded that Sri Lanka implement political and economic reforms to receive foreign assistance to get out of the prevailing crisis. “That was six months ago. We have been asking the government repeatedly to inform this House whether it has implemented those reforms.

“The riginal plan was to establish an interim government for six months to restore the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It was stated that an election would be held after six months. Now, what has happened? The politicians who are responsible for the crisis are still in power.

“Foreign Minister Al Sabry met USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Friday. Samantha Power called for the same political and economic reforms again. The international community is asking for the same.”

Leader of the House, Minister Susil Premjayantha said that political reforms were being implemented. “It is as part of the political reforms we are setting up a National Council, Sectoral Oversight Committees and three other committees. Counter terrorism act is in the pipeline. It will be taken up within couple of weeks. We passed several bills with your support. There were nine amendments to be introduced to the criminal law,” he said.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: “The bills and amendments that have been passed are not enough as far as the international community and we are concerned. The biggest request is to allow the people of this country for a new mandate. Allow the people to express their will. Give them a chance to establish a new government or to maintain the same government now they have.”

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