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Media Ministry proposes new ethics code for media


Draft completed and to be distributed, more discussions expected, special focus on reducing sensationalism

The Media Ministry is preparing to draft a new ethics code for media that could put new guidelines on the way in which stories are reported to the public.Media Ministry Secretary Charitha Herath met with news editors of print, TV and radio organisations on Friday to discuss the possibility of improving ethics among the industry, particularly pertaining to reporting on crime. “This is not to censure anyone and it is certainly not aimed at censorship,” Herath had insisted to the news editors, but pointed out that it was to preserve and promote moral standards of society in general.

During the discussion which lasted slightly over an hour several ideas were put forward on establishing a common platform to reduce sensationalism, especially regarding crime reporting including murder and rape. Ideals of not publishing names of victims, reservations in showing suspects and grieving family were highlighted.  However, several news editors pointed out that the media also need to be empowered for ethics to be successful. They stressed that the difficulty in getting comments from high powered public officials often led to misunderstandings and inaccurate reports. The professionals also emphasised that officials in-charge of media within Ministries and elsewhere should be trained so that they can provide competent linkages to the media. Such steps would mean that media have access to necessary information and would therefore provide credible reports.
Herath proposed that a 24-hour hotline be established so the Government Information Department (GID) can provide contact details to Ministers and other officials.

He also noted that the draft of the proposed ethics code is already completed and would be released to media heads soon. According to the Secretary, the new code includes provisions provided for by the different ethical codes and practices already in existence for print and other media. However it was unclear whether this code would include websites. Future discussions on the code are expected.

FT/By Uditha Jayasinghe

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