The minister was addressing an awareness workshop seminar on the proposed 'Right to Information Act' conducted jointly by the Information Department and the Media and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry during the weekend.

The workshop seminar for the provincial media persons of the Galle district was held at the District Secretariat auditorium, Galle.

Karunatillake said investigative journalists of the calibre of Poddala Jayantha was tortured and made physically handicapped forever. Sunday Leader editor LasanthaWickramatunga was gunned down in a high security zone in Colombo by unidentified gunmen.

Ekneligoda had disappeared and several provincial media persons in the North and East had also been killed and attacked.Uthayan Publications in Jafna was attacked and burnt several occasions. Even its newspaper delivery boys became victims. SIRASA too was attacked, he said.

People were fully aware that all these attacks were sponsored by the previous regime, the minister said.

"White Vans moved throughout the country hunting media persons critical of the undemocratic activities of the previous regime. As a result of gross violation of media freedom one of the major pillars of democracy was crumbled down and paved the way for the international community to tag Sri Lanka as a dictatorship. During the previous regime all norms of democracy and good governance had been violated and Sri Lanka was identified as the fourth most dangerous countries in the world," Minister Karunathilaka said.

He said it was very unfortunate that media persons had to encounter even death threats when they tried to give a voice to the voiceless and marginalised innocent communities of the country.

"Under the present government which is committed to implement the democratic norms of good governance, media freedom had been reestablished and irrespective of party politics whether the government is Green, Blue or Red media persons are allowed to be engaged in people friendly media activities."

Newly proposed ' Right to Information Act ' had already been drafted and expected to be discussed soon in the parliament for the final approval, he said.

"Even though the Pen is considered as mightier than the sword, the media person should use it not to create tension in the society," he said.

Referring to a recent function held at Galle which he also attended, one of the Lake House correspondents at Galle had carried a news report refraining to mention even his name and worst of all even his name was not carried in the picture where he also appeared, he said. Even though he made a speech, several persons who had seen the news report had made inquiries from him wehther he had not made a speech at that function, he said.

Citing this media report Media Minister Gayantha Karunatillake said that media persons had to take extreme care in reporting. Media coverages should be done without political bias, he said.

Media and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry Secretary Karunarathne Paranavitana said the draft document of Right to Information would be submitted to the Parliament for approval as an activity under the 100 Day programme, immediately after the approval of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Maximum exposure of activities of the state except information relevant to the national security for the information of the public had to be done in tune with the proposed Right to Information Act, he said.

Every government institution would be provided with a trained officer on the subject to facilitate this activity. Every media person has the right to information and legal action could be taken for the refusal of information by government authorities. Lake House Editorial Director SamanWagaarachchi said even if governments change, democracy, good governance and media freedom should be maintained and safeguarded.

The public could be made aware of the affairs of the government, its development programmes, benefits as well as state corruption only by media persons, he said.

"Whenever the statistics of the government appear to be faulty or contradictory, media has the right to question the irregularities. 'Right to Information' promotes human rights in a country," he stressed. As far back as 1980 the Act of Right to Information was signed but due to gradual erosion of democracy and media freedom in Sri Lanka, once again just after 35 years discussions on the subject had to be conducted, he said.

ITN Deputy Chairman Lal Hemantha Mawalage spoke on the TV news and the mistakes and incomplete news coverages done by the provincial media persons.