The government is in the process of introducing a Code of Media Ethics to all Print and Electronic media with a series of guidelines that includes sections that could lead to broad interpretation such as “no publication should be done which contains criticism affecting foreign relations.”
A draft of the proposed Code of Media Ethics prepared by the Media and Information Ministry obtained by the Daily Mirror states that:
No publications should be published which
(a) offends against expectations of the public, morality of the country or tend to lower the standards of public taste and morality
(b) contains criticism affecting foreign relations
(c) contains derogatory remarks on religious groups or communities or promoting communal or religious discord which may affect religious and communal harmony
(d) contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate falsehood and suggestive innuendos and half-truths or willful omissions
(e) contains information which could mislead the public
(f) is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which may promote anti-national attitudes
(g) contains anything amounting to contempt of court
(h) contains materials against the integrity of the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative
(i) criticizes, maligns or slanders any individual or groups of persons such as ethnic, linguistic or religious or such segments of the public
(j) contains details of a person’s family life, financial information, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability and one’s home or family and individuals in hospitals unless it has a direct relevance to the public interest
(k) encourages superstitions or blind belief
(1) promote atrocity, drug abuse, brutality sadism, sexual salacity and obscenity
(m) denigrates the poor..
and so on.
Commenting on the objectives of the Code of Media Ethics, Secretary of the Media and Information Ministry Dr. Charitha Herath said there were two components that governed the media which were ethics and law.
“We never intend to introduce legislation to guide or control the media. But certain developments in the media in the recent past has convinced us that a Code of Ethics for journalists and media institutions are of paramount importance to arrest the situation,” Dr. Herath said.
He added that there were laws and regulations that governed the Press Council, the SLBC and the SLRC and telecommunications but a Code of Ethics that directly governed the media institutions and journalists was lacking and the proposed Code of Ethics for media institutions and journalists would bridge that gap.
Dr. Herath further said the document was open for public debate. Comments and proposals from media personnel, media institutions and media organisations, social groups, NGOs, the academia and political parties were welcome before it was put into practice.
The ethical guidelines were intended for all journalists, media institutions and advertisers to refrain from publishing information, news items, advertisements and commercials that contained information that could mislead the public.
On advertising, there was a series of guidelines that included exploitation of the National emblem, National flag and National Anthem, any part of the Constitution or, the person or personality of a national leader or state dignitary
No advertisement shall be permitted which, derided any race, caste, colour, creed and or nationality, tended to incite people to crime, caused disorder, violence, breach of law or glorified violence or obscenity in any way, depiction of women, children and differently-abled persons, products or services coming within the recognised character of or specially concerned with, the breath-testing devices and products that tended to mask the effect of alcohol, fortune-tellers and the like, undertakers or others associated with death or burial, licensed employment services, registers or bureaus, organisations, companies, persons seeking to advertise for the purpose of giving betting tips, betting, cigarettes, liquor and alcoholic beverages
Altogether, there were 66 clauses in the Code of Media Ethics that advertising agencies, advertising creators and media institutions were to adhere to