The academia warned of possible Governmental attempts to coordinate the mechanism to implement the provisions of the Right to Information Act towards maintaining the nexuses established between the Executive, the legislature and the judiciary, as per the social position and status theory.
Senior Lecturer in Mass Media at the Sri Palee Campus of the University of Colombo, Dr. Liyanage Tudor Weerasinghe said that although it is convenient for the Government to train the human resource already employed inside public offices as information officers, it was essential to recruit information officers freshly from among those individuals who possessed a broader understanding of media ethics, media laws and media deontology.
State intervention is critical in order to create the relevant conditions conducive for the practical implementation of the Act, to formulate the structural mechanism for the Act’s implementation and to strengthen the required infrastructure, he noted.
In order to activate the potential of the Act, the civil society and the intelligentsia must be aware and sensitive, he added.
The judiciary, especially the superior Courts such as the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, have been given a wide berth within the Act for interpretation of such matters as the declaration or non-declaration of economic, financial, trade and commercial secrets and the defining of what exactly falls within the definition of what is a State secret (which is situational and depends on the context), and therefore must understand that giving rulings and judgments in accordance with the provisions of the Act would bring them into conflict with the Executive and the Parliament, he remarked.
“To a certain extent, the right to information or the freedom of information is a new social institution interlinked to the media industry, the civil society including the intelligentsia comprised intellectuals, and the politicians,” he said.
He said the State mechanism and the State’s activities function on tax monies collected from the public and therefore the public has a right to know how much was spent, on what, and where, as the control, administration and management of these aspects is with the Government composed of those elected by the people and public officials.
“The higher the social position, the more the power and influence one wields. They are the ones more likely to engage in the misuse of State property, take commissions, give and take bribes, and get involved in fraud and corruption. Information may not be given regarding such. This though it cannot be eradicated must be minimized. The intelligentsia must come up with the ideological direction for the Act,” Dr. Weerasinghe pointed out.