The Tamil newspaper Uthayan has meanwhile again been the target of threats and violence. Yesterday in Jaffna, men armed with machetes forced an Uthayan distributor to burn the copies of the newspaper that he was about to distribute. They also destroyed copies of the Tamil newspaper Valampuri. to go further Sri LankaAsia – Pacific M. Vithyatharan, the editor of Sudar Oli, a Colombo-based daily linked to Uthayan, also received two threatening phone calls after refusing to print the communiqué. News Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the impact on press freedom of a government decision to restore the former Press Council, which will have the power to pass jail sentences on journalists and newspaper publishers. The decision comes amid continuing tension between the authorities and renewed threats against Jaffna-based Tamil newspapers. Sri Lanka: Journalist manhandled by notorious police inspector currently on trial July 29, 2020 Find out more Help by sharing this information “A press council can be a useful tool for managing relations between the media and the public,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But as it is, this council represents more of a threat than a solution. Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in Asia to decriminalise press offences. Now the government wants turn the clock back and impose controls that that will be a permanent threat hanging over the media. We urge the government to liberalise the 1973 law before reintroducing the Press Council.” More details on the Press Council Reporters Without Borders urges the judicial authorities to withdraw all the proceedings against this press group. Reporters Without Borders calls on the police to identify those responsible for the threats and to provide Vithyatharan with protection. Sri Lanka: RSF signs joint statement on attacks against human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists July 15, 2020 Find out more Eight Sri Lanka groups that defend press freedom, including the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka, have written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa voicing concern about the Press Council’s return, calling it a “ill-advised decision.” The letter reminded the president that he had himself defended the decriminalisation of press offences to parliament in 2002. Organisation Sri LankaAsia – Pacific June 26, 2009 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Press Council’s restoration would be “dangerous step backwards” RSF_en Receive email alerts Members of Uthayan’s staff said this was a reprisal for its refusal to publish a statement issued by a hitherto unknown group calling itself the Tamil United Force to Safeguard the Country. The newspaper refused to print it because it could not identify its authors. News News January 13, 2021 Find out more Sri Lanka: tamil reporter held on absurd terrorism charge Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena confirmed on 24 June that the government plans to revive the Press Council, which was created in 1973 and then suspended in 2002. He said the decision was taken after a parliamentary committee “discovered” that the government was still paying for the council every though it was not doing anything. The media meanwhile set up a Press Complaints Commission after 2002 that mediates in disputes between members of the public and the media. Follow the news on Sri Lanka The president’s brother, defence minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, has publicly voiced regret that Sri Lanka abolished jail sentences for press offences. He brought a libel suit against the Leader Publications newspaper group that led to the group being ordered to publish absolutely no report about him. The Sunday Leader nonetheless did print a profile of him last month (http://www.thesundayleader.lk/20090524/profile.htm) and as a result its editors have been ordered to appear in court on a contempt charge in July. News Under the 1973 law creating the council, the president appoints its six members, who include a representative of journalist organisations and a representative of the media owners. Some Colombo-based media have said the writer Somarathna Balasooriya could be named to head the council, which can impose heavy fines on journalists and media found guilty of defamation or insult, and even prison sentences in the most serious cases.