The Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) this week decided to consider third party complaints – or complaints from those not directly, but indirectly affected by a publication in a newspaper.
The board of directors of the Press Complaints Commission, the self-regulatory mechanism representing the newspaper industry, made this announcement at the conclusion of the first National Conference on ‘Self-Regulation in the Media’ yesterday (8 September, 2011) at the Sri Lanka Press Institute auditorium.
While the rules and procedures of the PCCSL permitted third party complaints on a ‘case by case’ basis, the Commission was reluctant to accept third party complaints fearing it would open ‘the flood gates’ and the Commission would be inundated with complaints against newspapers.
On a previous occasion former President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s press officer complained on her behalf and that of her children against a Sunday newspaper, and the PCCSL accepted the complaint.
The board felt that the time was appropriate to widen the scope of the PCCSL and its Dispute Resolution Council headed by former Ombudsman and Secretary General of Parliament Sam Wijesinha to begin considering third party complaints on a case by case basis with the discretion of accepting their admissibility being with the PCCSL Secretariat and the Council. They felt that third party complaints can now be the rule than the exception provided they fell within a defined category.
In a news release issued on Wednesday, the PCCSL Secretariat announced that the board had given as illustrations the following categories under which third party complaints can be entertained in future. They are;
b)Animal welfare groups
c)Adults on behalf of minors
d)An immediate family member of an accident victim
e)An immediate family member of a person in custody
f)Anyone complaining on behalf of another provided the prior written permission of the person personally affected is obtained.
Third party complaints are accepted in several countries that have an effective self-regulatory mechanism that polices the media, including Britain, Germany, several Scandinavian countries, Bosnia-Herzagovina etc.
The PCCSL was established in 2003 and is the first self-regulatory body in South Asia. Since its establishment it has entertained over nine hundred complaints. In 2010 it entertained 131 complaints and for the first eight months of this year it has entertained 104 complaints.
The Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, the Sri Lanka Press Institute and the Sri Lanka College of Journalism are its main sponsors. It is also supported by all the other major media related associations which include the South Asian Free Media Association (Sri Lanka Chapter), the Muslim Media Forum, the Tamil Media Alliance and the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions.