Bopage faults media for brouhaha over his request

Failed attempt to ban use of term ‘Joint Opposition’


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Secretary to the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media, Nimal Bopage yesterday alleged that the reportage of recent controversy over issuance of a missive by him requesting the media not to use the term ‘Joint Opposition’ to denote the dissident group was offensive and disparaging.

Attorney-at-law Bopage claimed that he had been unfairly attacked by a section of the media. Bopage was addressing a seminar organised by Sri Lanka Press Council at the Information Department to coincide with the World Press Freedom Day, which fell yesterday.

Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Karu Paranavithana, Sri Lanka Press Council (SLPC) Chairman and attorney-at-law Koggala Wellala Bandula, Press Commissioner Niroshan Thambawita and SLPC members Prof. Sunanda Mahendra, S. Thillainathan, Gamini Sumanasekera and DG Information Dr Darshini Gunatilleke were among those present on the occasion.

Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa delivered the guest lecture.

Last week Bopage claimed that the use of the term Joint Opposition was illegal, immoral and unethical and breach of media freedom.

Legal action could be taken against journalists who continued to use the term Joint Opposition, Bopage said in a media release. The Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media later requested the print media not to publish it.

Bopage mentioned a few cases to highlight the failure on the part of the media to be fair and impartial in coverage of contentious issues. The attorney-at-law compared the media coverage of two suspects, including Dinesh Priyashantha alias Kondaya initially arrested regarding the killing of five-year-old child Seya with that of his. He said that he was in a dilemma and still couldn’t understand how his statement had offended the media.

Bopage said that he would like to know who would take responsibility for erroneous and biased coverage of contentious and sensitive issues. Bopage asked whether the media had the right to relentlessly pursue and engage selected persons.

In an obvious reference to the Joint Opposition, Bopage said that those who were out of power remained influential.

Deputy Minister Paranavithana told the gathering that since the change of government in January, 2015, they had achieved media freedom. Ratnapura District MP said the government wouldn’t reverse the situation under any circumstances.

Citing recent criticism of Bopage’s letter as well as a spate of accusations made against the media as well, Paranavithana emphasised the need to introduce regulatory mechanisms, including technical regulation for electronic media.

The Deputy Minister asserted that instead of being angry and sorry over the conduct of the media, they should strive to put in place a mechanism to regulate private or independent media.

MP Paranavithana stressed the need not to deviate from the policies of the government.

Attorney-at-law Bandula said that some international powers routinely exploited the media for their advantage. In his brief introductory speech, Bandula said that interested parties offered money, perks and privileges, including scholarships to journalists.

Sri Lanka Press Council head Bandula recalled the circumstances under which a certain diplomatic mission in Colombo made an abortive bid to persuade the much-respected journalist D. B. Dhanapala to publish a certain article. Bandula also explained heavy pressure exerted by various parties, including a section of the international community to convince the media to promote their agenda.

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