The Media Law Forum organized a “Discussion Forum on Challengers to Free Media and Safety of Media Activists” at BMICH, Colombo on the 03rd of March 2023, with the aim of introducing the Legal Handbook for Journalists compiled by Attorney at Law Mr. Jagath Liyana Arachchi, and providing a platform for journalists, media activists, legal experts, and other stakeholders to share their experiences and insights on the topic. Through this program, the Media Law Forum aimed to create a networking platform for journalists, fostering connections between professionals in the field, and ultimately contributing to the promotion of free and safe media practices.
A workshop on digital safety, specifically designed for lawyers, was conducted on the 25th and 26th of March 2023 at Suriya Resort in Waikkala. The Media Law Forum was responsible for organizing this workshop, with the aim of augmenting lawyers’ comprehension of physical and digital safety aspects relevant to their professional life. Additionally, one of the key aims of this workshop was to provide a platform for lawyers to network and connect with other legal professionals who are also a part of the Media Law Forum lawyers network.
On February 17th, 2023, a Media Law Forum discussion forum took place in Kandy with the aim of identifying challenges faced by journalists in exercising their right to freedom of expression, and exploring ways in which lawyers can help protect this fundamental right. The event also sought to raise awareness of the Media Law Forum’s efforts to safeguard the freedom of expression, and to distribute a booklet it had created on media laws for journalists.
A discussion forum of the Media Law Forum was held at Chilaw on 18th of December 2022. The discussion forum reported in this document was part of a media and law consultation program organized by the Media Law Forum to protect the people’s freedom of expressions.
On 18 October 2022, The Media Law Forum launched its dedicated hotline (+94 74 3070 888) to safeguard freedom of expression of the journalists and human rights defenders in Sri Lanka. There were more than 60 senior journalists, social activists, diplomats, social media influencers, and lawyers appeared in the event. As of the day of the hotline launch, the MLF has identified 55 active and passionate lawyers interested in taking up cases related to journalists and civil activists in Sri Lanka, particularly in the field of freedom of expression. The legal defenders are working with the MLF on a pro-bono basis. Attorney-at-law Viranjana Herath, Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya, senior journalist Mandana Ismail Abeywickrama and President’s counsel Jagath Wickramanayake delivered their respective speeches under four different topics in the event. President’s counsel Saliya Peiris, the President of Bar Association of Sri Lanka made the key note speech under the topic of “the role of legal practitioners in balancing the law and freedom of expression”. The event was followed by a 40-minute long Q & A session. Attorney-at-law Thilini Perera moderated the event.
The consultation session on media law and policy
For a better media environment, self regulation could be the best possible method, said Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, addressing a recently held gathering of legal and media professionals.
“The Government is definitely in support of establishing professionalism of the media and communication field in an effort inclusive of media personnel, media outlet owners and the civil society organisations,” minister Allahapperuma said.
The minister attended as the chief guest of the Consultation Session on Media Law and Policy organised by the Media Law Forum held at Battaramulla on February 02, 2022. Broadcast and online media personnel, legal experts in media law, experts in media and communication field attended the event. Representatives of the Sri Lanka Press Council, Broadcasters’ Guild of Sri Lanka, Professional Web Journalists Association were present at the event.
Welcoming the distinguished guests, Chairperson of the Media Law Forum Attorney At Law Mr. Viranjana Herath explained the objective of the event and the contribution from the Media Law Forum in promoting media freedom, securing freedom of expression and active involvement in policy decisions affecting media industry ensuring its betterment rather restriction.
Setting the tone of the session, media expert and researcher Mr. Nalaka Gunawardane delivered an elaborative presentation on the Sri Lankan media demography, the development of media law and policies and lessons learnt. The narrative with a wealth of knowledge caught the unwavering attention of the audience. The speech delivered by Mr. Gunawardane covered the history and evolution of the media industry in the country, the current trend and situations and the global positioning of the country with broader opportunities available for the country to be easily connected to the world. The stealth of information in his speech well harmonized the mind sets of the participants to the theme of the event.
Concluding his speech Mr. Gunawardane pointed out that the laws and regulations alone cannot create good humane qualities in a media professional. Responsible media reporting is a result of the respect one has towards the lives of other people and betterment of the society, he emphasized.
A vibrant intellectual discussion emerged during the open forum discussion started following the key presentation. The open forum discussion was moderated by Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya media expert, Asia Pacific region advisor of the International Media Support and former Director General of the Government Information Department.
Enlightening perspectives were expressed by the participants during the open forum discussion on a wider range of concerns.
Advisor to the Media Law Forum, Mr. Jagath Wickramanayake PC, Mr. Prashantha Lal de Alwis PC, Mr. Karu Paranawithana MP, Sri Lanka Press Council Board member Dr. Tudor Weerasinghe, Media expert Shan Wijethunga, Senior Lecturer Madhubhasini Galagedara, actively contributed as resource persons in the discussion.
Mr. Tharindu Jayawardane, Mr. Lahiru Mudalige, Mr. Ajith Perakum, Mr. Arun Arokianathan, Ms. Niranjani Shanmugarajah, Mr. Laksiri Wickramage and several other participants raised questions to the panel of resource persons. Amidst agreements and disagreements, the discussion continued till the end of the two-hour long event.
The media Law Forum held the event strictly adhering to the health guidelines issued by the health authorities ensuring proper social distancing in the seating arrangements, availability of hand sanitizer and facial masks throughout the event.
The Media Law Forum strongly believe that the consultation session would be used as a platform in the future activities of forming media laws, policies, and regulations with the inclusive participation of the members of the media fraternity.
The content being published in social media can be subjected under several categories of law. If we presume that there are no laws existing that affect social media, then that is a myth and a dangerous concept. සමාජ මාධ්ය ජාලාවල කරන පළකිරීම් යම් යම් නීති පද්ධතීන් හරහා ආවරණය වෙනවා. සමාජ මාධ්යවලට කිසිම නීතියක් නැහැ ඕනැම ආකාරයකට එහි හැසිරෙන්න පුළුවන් කියලා සිතීම මිත්යාවක් සහ විශාල අනතුරක්.
The Media Law Forum, jointly with the International Media Support (IMS) recently held a two day training for online journalists on digital security and digital hygiene. The training was held online on November 20th and 27th, 2021. Online journalists working in all three languages participated the online training and enthusiastically and actively interacted through out the two training sessions on both days.
The trainers, Ms. Lakna Paranamanna and Mr. Haritha Dahanayake are renowned experts of the field with a lot of experience in delivering training to media personnel.
The trainers introduced different types of digital apps that can be used to enhance digital security and empowered them with hygienic practices to safely use online platforms for their journalistic work.
Youtubers, bloggers and web journalists operating platforms with a diverse reach as well as those who are starting the online journey, participated the training. The questions they raised were mostly related to practical issues they faced during their journalistic work. They were keen to grasp updated knowledge in digital security.
Participants responded with contentment about the content of the training and skills they acquired which they strongly believed is very useful in their profession.
Media Law Forum jointly with Canada based Centre for Law and Democracy recently organised a Webinar on Media Law to build knowledge capacity of the lawyers in Sri Lanka. Lawyers from different parts of the country joined the webinar with great enthusiasm. The response from these lawyers through their active participation was a solid indication of its success as an initial step of the Media Law Forum (MLF).
Webinar discussions were spread across a wide range of subjects such as defamation, handling contempt of court cases and general understanding on media laws and regulations in Sri Lanka. Renowned legal experts of the country delivered lectures educating the participants. Lectures were delivered by Mr. Prashantha Lal de Alwis P,C, , Mr. Jagath Wickramanayake P.C. , Attorney-at-Law Mr. Thishya Weragoda and Attorney-at-Law Mr. Dharshana Kuruppu.
Initiating the webinar, Director Operations of MLF Attorney-at-Law Mr. Jagath Liyana Arachchi welcoming the participants and resource persons, explained the objectives of the webinar while introducing the MLF as an institute. Mr. Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy stated the importance of establishing a network of lawyers to provide a solid protection to democracy, Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom.
The webinar concluded with a request from lawyers to establish a sustainable network of lawyers with expertise in media laws and regulations.