29 September, 2020

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Where Is The Code Of Ethics For MPs?

By Kath Noble

Kath Noble

It would be funny if it weren’t so disgusting. In the week that the Government distributed a code of ethics for journalists, one of its MPs made possibly the most unethical statement of the year, from the safety and comfort of Parliament.

I am of course talking about Arundika Fernando and his claim to have seen missing journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda in France.

I don’t know about you, but if I had been introduced to the man who has become the symbol of the Sri Lankan media’s descent into hell – thanks to the extraordinarily courageous campaigning of his wife Sandhya – I would remember where it happened. I would make a note of it, maybe even take a photo. I would certainly ask the person who introduced us how on earth Ekneligoda had found his way out of the country undetected, what he was doing now, and why it was that he felt so amazingly confident in his disguise as to join Sunanda Deshapriya (wearing an oh-so-discreet turban, as Fernando has since added by way of supposedly reassuring detail!) in trying to disrupt a pro-Government rally outside the United Nations. I would also tell somebody to investigate further, because such a huge deception should not be allowed to pass.

And I am not even a Government supporter.

Fernando, he would have us believe, didn’t bother with any of that. He just forgot about it, then several months later when MPs got together to talk about the amount they should charge newspapers by way of registration fees, he dropped it into the debate.

This after the Government’s name has been dragged through the mud at the international level, not only because of the disappearance of Ekneligoda but also for the admission in a Sri Lankan court by former Attorney General and now Chief Justice Mohan Peiris that his statement to the Human Rights Council that Ekneligoda is alive and well rather than murdered by the State or forces associated with it was based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

Prageeth Ekneligoda

Frankly, if Fernando is telling the truth, he should be prosecuted for treason.

And if he is lying, he should be prosecuted for torture. Because that is what it would be, telling a woman that she should continue to hope for the return of her husband without good reason. (Good reason doesn’t include trying to browbeat Sandhya Ekneligoda into giving up her protests against the Government.)

Either way, it is definitely irresponsible.

Indeed, this is exactly the kind of irresponsibility that the Government has suddenly decided has to be dealt with in journalists.

Apparently, journalists report things that simply aren’t true and poor old politicians don’t have any means of redress – some idiot has made it illegal to kill them, and I think beating them up and burning their presses and studios is probably outlawed as well. (Maybe that’s something Mahinda Rajapaksa could look into while he still has his two thirds majority in Parliament?)

To be honest, I didn’t realise that the Government had such a frightful burden to bear. I was sure that it had plenty of even perfectly lawful ways of setting the record straight, not least its own massive media empire.

In any case, there is already a code of ethics for journalists, adopted by the Press Complaints Commission with the approval of all of the major media organisations.

What is different about the one that was circulated last week?

The original document prepared by journalists includes all of the necessary elements, like the need for accuracy in reporting and for verification of stories prior to publication. It calls for the issue of corrections and apologies where appropriate, and specifies the conditions under which people must be offered the right to reply. It urges restraint in covering issues of a particularly shocking nature, such as violence and obscenity, requires care to be exercised to avoid promoting communal or religious discord, and lists details that should not be included in a story, such as the identity of the victims of sex crimes and repetition of methods of suicide. It also states that journalists should not use financial information that they become aware of before it is published.

One of the most useful parts explains what constitutes the public interest, in the pursuit of which a certain degree of invasion of privacy or the use of methods such as secret recordings may be acceptable. It also encourages investigative journalism in the public interest.

Whether journalists stick to these guidelines is not the point. That is a matter of compliance, not the code of ethics itself.

As The Island has pointed out editorially, if the Government really feels the need to act, it had better start by ensuring the good behaviour of its own publications and broadcasters, and only then consider developing rules for others.

However, back to the new draft.

What the Government has done is add to the existing very sensible document a set of totally ridiculous criteria that it would like to use to rule out altogether the publication or broadcast of a whole lot of things. Included here are stories that ‘offend against the expectations of the public’, whatever those may be, and stories that ‘may promote anti-national attitudes’ or ‘contain criticism affecting foreign relations’. Since the term ‘anti-national attitudes’ is nowhere defined, experience suggests that this would be interpreted by the Government to mean any and all criticism of its actions. And whatever the definition, the stories need not even promote ‘anti-national attitudes’ – this only has to be a possible outcome. Vaguer criteria are almost impossible to imagine. As for the clause expressing concern about foreign relations, there can be no doubt whatsoever about the Government’s intentions, since even the reproduction of transcripts of its own announcements at press briefings would damage its standing in the world.

In addition to these extraordinary criteria, the new draft also outlaws stories that ‘contain materials against the integrity of the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature’. Again, what on earth does this mean?

The only conclusion that can be drawn from this whole exercise is that the Government is quite happy to look keen to crush the media (and pretty thick, incidentally!).

It is apparently completely unconcerned at the prospect of looking keen to trample on Sandhya Ekneligoda.

Arundika Fernando made this even clearer when he addressed the media, accusing her of behaving in an unpatriotic manner in calling on the Government to bring her husband home, as if that were not the obvious course of action in the circumstances. Prageeth Ekneligoda disappeared just days before the last presidential election, in preparation for which he had been working for the common candidate of the Opposition, Sarath Fonseka.

Whatever his politics, it is the Government’s job to explain what happened to him, not by making wild assertions but with the use of actual proof.

*Kath Noble may be contacted at kathnoble99@gmail.com

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    MP’s, Ministers, Secretaries, Advisers, State Media have the freedom of the wild ass, to say anything, do anything and go unpunished. However when it comes to independent media, individuals and ordinary citizens, the govt talks about ethics to cover up its own skeletons and nakedness.
    The people in the country have a right to know what these rascals are up to. All the losses, waste and corruption go unreported and we are asked to keep singing hosannas and hallelujahs to these scoundrels. The MP in question has no scruples to keep harassing a poor woman who has been left destitute with two children. Shame on him, though he probably has none.

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      I agree with you. You can add about the non-payment of taxes in millions or billions of Rupees and about the illegal import of several items.

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        Great stuff Kath – keep it coming! In India there is a RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL and a whistle blowers protection legislation in the making..

        The Rajapassa regime of crooks and thugs in Lanka and its cabinet of thieves and the rest of the crooks in parliament need a Code of Conducte first and before that there needs to be the RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL in Sri Lanka.

        What is the crooked opposition doing about the Right to information bill and public awareness raising? The media code of conduct is to deny the RIGHT TO INFORMATION and prevent the Rajapassa sponsored looting of the economy being exposed..

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      Dear Kath Noble,

      You ask:

      1. “Where Is The Code Of Ethics For MPs?”

      In addition, I would like to ask: The Codes of Ethics.

      2.”Where Is The Code Of Ethics For Ministers?”

      3.”Where Is The Code Of Ethics For the President?”

      4.”Where Is The Code Of Ethics For Buddhist Monks?”

      5.”Where Is The Code Of Ethics For Police?”

      6.”Where Is The Code Of Ethics For Custom Officers?”

      7.”Where Is The Code Of Ethics For Bribe Takers?”

      8.”Where Is The Code Of Ethics For State Media Liars?”

      9. “Where Is The Code Of Ethics For Sinhala Buddhists?”

      10. 9. “Where Is The Code Of Ethics For Judges and Lawyers?”

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        I like No. 7, ha ha ha… You guys are a real smart bunch, ain’t you?

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        Never mind sifting other peoples shit. Let us concentrate on our impressive pile of garbage.

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      The media code of conduct proposed by the uneducated Rajapassa regime is a violation of the RIGHT TO INFORMATION that citizens of this country are entitled to!

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      Dear Kath Noble,

      “What is the Code of Ethics for MPs?” JeDa Vu

      Well, well.

      1. What was the code of Ethics of Henry Kissinger? Christmas Bombing of Hanoi, 25,000 dead.

      2. What was the code of Ethics of the Norwegian Parliament to offer Nobel peace prizes? Offer Henry Kissinger a Nobel peace prize. Alfred Nobel must be turning in his grave.

      3. What was the code of Ethics of USA, UK and UN on the WMD and invade Iraq? Lies, Absolute, lies and oil.

      4. What is the code of ethics of USA, UK, France, EU and Wahabi Arabia on Syria? Lies, more lies,and fund terrorism.

      Read

      lankatruth.com/english/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5162:us-considers-arming-terrorists-against-syrian-government&catid=52:world&Itemid=70

      US considers arming terrorists against Syrian government

      TUESDAY, 11 JUNE 2013 12:50

      The United States is considering arming terrorist groups in Syria as government forces, backed by Hezbollah, appear to gain the upper hand in the bloody two-year civil war.

      Meetings are planned in Washington this week, which could decide to approve the supply of lethal weapons to terrorist groups on the ground. In recent weeks Syrian terrorists have suffered significant setbacks, including the loss of the key town of Qusair and it is believed that government forces will soon launch a sustained attack in opposition strongholds in the north, around Aleppo, and in Homs.

      Newspapers in Syria have suggested that troops are deploying heavily in the area and that an attack could come within days. Al-Watan reported that the army was now, “deploying heavily in the countryside near Aleppo in preparation for a battle that will be fought inside the city and on its outskirts. Besieged areas will be freed in the first stages and troops which have been on the defensive will go on the offensive,” it said.

      It is said that US officials are considering a range of options, including the establishment of a no-fly zone which would involve the deployment of American airpower in the region. More likely options include providing smaller arms via Turkey.

      However, the recent influx of thousands of fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fighting against terrorists in the area has tipped the battle in favour of Assad’s government.

      DeJa Vu……..

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        Ammatasiri Amarasiri,
        Never mind sifting other peoples shit. Let us concentrate on our impressive pile of garbage.

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      Dear Ms. Nobel,

      Code of Ethics for our MP’s? Do you know what MP’s stand for?

      Mara Pandamkarayas.
      [Edited out]

      @Amarasisri, could you please write instead of posting links – CT

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    Kath @,

    Great to read from you again.

    This is what instantly came to my mind reading the latest news about the MISSING Eknaligoda.

    Comments should atleast contain when and where the particular MP is supposed to have met the missing person. It seems the national TV interviewers or any other interviwers are not interested in where and when of the contents of the information… this is absolutely no go on any democratic society.

    There is ABSOLUTELY no ethical guidelines for SRILANKA under the current RULE.

    http://www.infolanka.com/news/

    You cant understand Sinhala, but if one would listen to what the victimized wife expresses concerning the latest comments – about signs of life of her husband to me – CREDIBLE. She has made numerous comments on this – all these have been consistent from that day onwards.

    This time she clearly says, that the president of srilanka is well aware of all these happening in SRIlanka as to why they are compelled to bring a new lie to cover the previous one made by Mohan Peris during his presentation in Geneva a year ago. However MOHAN PERIS is the man the president handpicked to fill the gap of illegally impeached former CJ – Dr SB.
    Ms Eknaligoda sounds to be a fearless woman in lanken society daring all the risk to accuse the PRESIDENT of srilanka on the handling on the ISSUE. While one Peris (GL PERIS the foreign minister has to do his job painting a healthy picture) the other Peris (DE FACTO CJ Set by PRESIDENT) s and his unprecedented reactions — this has now become a DRAMA to all readers – watchers… but they are playing with human beings- is unfortunately not COMPREHENSIBLE to them.

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    They the rulers have no respect or shame.

    As you clearly describe –

    “Frankly, if Fernando is telling the truth, he should be prosecuted for treason (NOT EVEN MOSTLY EVIDENT KILLERS ARE PUNISHED IN HIS ADMINISTRATION)

    And if he is lying, he should be prosecuted for torture. Because that is what it would be, telling a woman that she should continue to hope for the return of her husband without good reason. (Good reason doesn’t include trying to browbeat Sandhya Ekneligoda into giving up her protests against the Government)”.

    If there are ethical codes in function in current day srilanka – President should come forward to address this issue, because international focus is becoming more day to another with Canada^s opinions that scheduled CHOGEM is a greater MISTAKE of CW.

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    FYI:

    Govt. should seek help from Interpol, France to trace Ekneligoda – Ranil
    June 11, 2013, 10:21 pm

    UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday urged the External Affairs Ministry to request Interpol and the French government to help trace the whereabouts of cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda, since a government MP was claiming that he had met him in France recently.

    The UNP leader told a meeting convened to explain his party’s new draft constitution to media organizations at Sirikotha yesterday, that the disappearance of Ekneligoda on Jan. 24, 2010 impinged directly on the sovereignty of the people and it was the duty of the Rajapaksa regime to trace his whereabouts.

    The media organisations present included the Free Media Movement, Working Journalists Association, Muslim Media Forum, South Asia Free Media Association and the South Asia Women’s Media Organisation.

    Now that UPFA MP Arundika Fernando had claimed in Parliament that he had been introduced to the cartoonist in France by Manjula Wediwardena, a Sri Lankan journalist, the Foreign Ministry should request both Interpol and the French authorities to assist the government in finding him, the UNP leader said.

    Wickremesinghe noted that the government had a duty to keep the legislature informed of the action it had taken, if any.

    Fernando told Parliament last week that Ekenligoda, who was living in disguise in France, had avoided him when he was introduced by a person called Wediwardena. However, the journalist has since denied such an encounter taking place.

    At a meeting of the United Nations Convention Against Torture in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s then Attorney General Mohan Peiris, dismissing charges against the government, said that Ekneligoda had sought asylum abroad. But, when questioned in Court later, Peiris replied that he did not remember who the source of his information was and that “only God knows” the whereabouts of the cartoonist.

    Ekneligoda was reported missing two days before the last presidential election. He participated actively in the campaign of Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who was the common opposition’s Presidential candidate.

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    MPs of all sides get away with whatever lies, crimes, etc.

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    Sadly these morons believe that if a lie is uttered often enough it becomes truth. By now Fernando himself believes he saw Ekneligoda and pretty soon he’ll have a following. The tragedy is that they get away with even murder and theres nothing we ordinaries can do abut it.

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    The thinking of R2P is not far from lanken situation

    Recognizing the failure to adequately respond to the most heinous crimes known to humankind, world leaders made a historic commitment to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity at the United Nations (UN) 2005 World Summit. This commitment, entitled the Responsibility to Protect, stipulates that:
    1. The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

    2. The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.

    3. The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.

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    Ethical MP’s. Is that an oxymoron?

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    There is another question that no one has asked the MP. That is, what was he doing meeting with a journalist, Manjula Wediwardena, who is said to be in hiding from the Government of Sri Lanka?

    How come the CID is not questioning him to find out if he is working against the government with an exiled journalist?

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    I wonder what would happen if a Sri Lankan journalist living in Sri Lanka wrote like Kath Noble… people would not assign much significance to her / him.. carrots and sticks would be made available to choose from etc..

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      I agree with Lasantha.

      She looks like a journalist who has some values or conscience.

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    Dear Kath

    Actually after skimming several lines of the govt’s code of ethics for journalists I began to think it ws some kind of JOKE! & shd be circulated worldwide to entice more people to emigrate to this crazy upside-down(a la ED) country where they can get a laugh a minute. We are belly aching so much that we are already unconscious when the latest blow from above is trotted out to making life even harder than it was the day before.

    Obviously, the last people who should have a hand in drafting any kind of code of ethics is those who clearly havent the remotest notion of what ethics is/are all about! Maybe we need a special committee composed of distinguished religious scholars, distinguished philosophers, atheists and agnostics. I doubt our govt.nay, our parliament, even) has a single person falling into any of these categories.

    BTW, WHO composed the committee that came up with the govt’s C of E for Js?

    Kath you say: ‘The original document prepared by journalists includes all of the necessary elements, like the need for accuracy in reporting and for verification of stories prior to publication. It calls for the issue of corrections and apologies where appropriate, and specifies the conditions under which people must be offered the right to reply.’

    I ws v. happy to read that last sentence, & I hope that all journalists will really pay heed to it too.

    Sometime last year (cd give chapter & verse but wd take time) I contributed to a blog in a popular local English lang. daily, expressing the hope that we wd not have to host the C’wealth Games — for obvious reasons. Without going overboard, or citing facts & figures (which I did not have, anyway) I made it clear I was absolutely opposed to our wasting our meagre resources like this when we had many more urgent matters crying out for attention & resources. That short blog of mine was accepted by the paper (on line), with my name as it is given here too. Weeks later, one of the paper’s popular interviewers made up a special feature about the Games, & also carried a number of blogs the paper had carried earlier as they came in. However, she switched the names (authors) of two of the blogs, making ME the author of a very different(in content, style, etc) blog from the one I actually sent. I emailed the compiler of the feature (whose name was given) informing her that I was not the author of X piece, but of Y piece, & requested a correction by the paper. I received neither an answer to my email, nor a correction or apology in the paper. My email was also copied to the paper’s main FEATURES EDITOR, who was similarly silent. I was very unhappy to have my name on record as the author of something I would definitely nor have written.

    There are a number of other things I should like to bring up concerning the conduct of some press editors and journalists. The problem is that criticising such powerful people only makes life even harder for the writer (I mean, if the writer is just an ‘ordinary member of the public’). Newspaper editors, etc., have their favourites and their opposites, & this could b a taking off point for an a thesis on not only “freedom of the press”, but RIGHT of ACCESS or “fair access” to the press. One could do a survey for instance, of just one paper’s treatment of say, 10 selected writers/contributrs over a few years. Questions of agenda setting, which page it is carried on, highlighting, ‘downplaying”, positive/negative tilt, font sizes, bolding, etc. played.

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      My apologies for confused / unfinished sentences / & finally tailing off altogether. I was tryping on a new laptop and the cursor kept jumping up the page…I finally gave up.

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        Dont worry, your contents are clear enough :)

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    Are you serious? Even in the best democracies of the world, the politicians have managed to control their urges and whenever the odd one over-reaches, the responses were immediate but varying.

    To expect the barely educated idiots who run our country to do that,leave aside draft a code of anything, is asking for too much. After all, are’nt we the idiots who allowed this lot to get all this power and now we wonder how to get rid of them?

    Of course this allows the somewhat educated to wax eloquent about the hows and whys, with no skin to lose !!

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    WHO ARE WE ?

    It is the majority stupid folks and lanken opposition are accountable for the social erosion facing the country today.

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      In order to get an IDEA how the average would tick – just enough to read the comments added to the SINHALA articles published on CT this week.

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ranil-june-11-2013/comment-page-1/#comment-604584

      None of them seem to have respect towards Ranil. See, Ranil is regarded as a Clown. But what has he done to fall on to that low level?

      My guess is current low level politicians and uncivilized public speeches of them have driven the society to this kind alarming level today. If there is no uproot of those uncivilised ministers from the country – nothing would change in the system. They are worst than anything else.

      Not even Pakistanis would react to the manner that our average would react today – Pakistan is a nation whose literacy rate is just 40-50%, while lankens score the same levels as of a developed nation (over 90% comparable to those of developed countries).In the UK, Pakistanis are called fuckis.. also in Germany and other EU countries have no respect toward Pakistanis. It is all because of the manner they get on after being migrated to these countries. Lanken Tamils are regarded as similar gipsy folk groups.. In Switzerland, wherever you travel through. you would see them doing all kind jobs on the street. They are poor people, the Swiss believe that lanken Tamils are poor, but they are hard working.. they would never change their attitudes as the Sinhalese would do. But hope not that tamils^ghetto life style would hurt to indigenous folks in Europe.

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