The government is preparing to establish an Independent Regulatory Commission to regulate the media.
This revelation was made by Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Gayantha Karunathilaka while addressing a conference held in Colombo, yesterday, March 19.
According to the Committee, stage Amendments to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which were introduced, journalists can be imprisoned under criminal charges.
Clause 28 of the Bill reads that under Election Law or a Referendum, in the event that guidelines issued by the Elections Commissioner during an election or a referendum are not complied with, legal action can be taken on criminal charges, even against privately-owned media institutions.
The maximum punishment is a prison sentence of three years or a fine not exceeding Rs. 100,000.
In its determination of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on the 15th of April 2015, the Supreme Court held that the suggested Clause seeking to regulate private media amounted to an arbitrary exercise which will severely impinge upon the rights of citizens and media institutions.
Accordingly, Court held that the said Clause violated Article 3 of the Constitution and therefore, had to be approved by the people at a referendum.
Thereby, the government was compelled to remove the restricting Clause from the Bill.
Many in the political spectra point out that the government is gearing up to suppress the media through other means.