Bangladesh TV by Jeeves
CPA and Beyond Borders organized a discussion on the Private Television Broadcast Regulations, and how it pertains to bloggers. I don’t especially think that it does given that A) we don’t have any rights anyways and B) this applies to, as the name suggests, Private Television Broadcasters. The gazette (now stayed I think) basically puts most private TV operators out of business and cuts off any foreign investment by specifying majority Sri Lankan ownership and subjecting the very license to the whims of the Information Minister. So, not only can people with money not invest too much (including the foreign investors in SLT, the state-owned firm), their investment would also be prone to disappear at any time. There is, however, some clumsy wording which seems to make anyone transmitting anything over the Internet subject to this law. However, seeing as there is no rule of law, I as a blogger don’t feel especially threatened.
Under Emergency Law (the main tenets being the absence of) Sri Lankans derive their rights not from the Constitution or Institutions but basically from being ignored by the powers that be. If no one notices you, then you can basically do whatever you want. If someone (with power) does notice, they can basically do whatever they want to you. Your rights exist not as a concrete thing but more in the sense that a rabbit has the right to run around as long as the foxes don’t see it. In Sri Lanka we have the added benefit (over animals) that someone might notice and file a Fundamental Rights petition and some other random motherfucker in the Supreme Court might have mercy on you. That decision too has no particular correlation to written law, again depending on how this particular person feels.
That is, and not to be pessimistic, I see limited purpose in worrying about laws when the people in power generally do whatever the fuck they want. It’s pretty tooth and fang out here and what limits their tyranny is not law, but their own technical incompetence. That is, sometimes they propose stuff they simply can’t do – like banning Internet pornography or requiring a record of every video transmitted over the Internet. Those laws don’t get enforced simply because they’re unenforceable. However, if the government can do something (as in, they are physically able) they generally will. Any justice you get will be after your business and freedom are taken away and is thus more of a historical artifact than justice per say. For example, the shut-down of CBNSat had no legal basis and I think was ruled such, but months later, after the business had died. Tissanayakam (the jailed journalist) may get a ruling someday, but he’s been in jail for months now.
Hence, Sri Lanka is ruled not by law but by whim. Like the traffic in Colombo, you kinda need to know what’s going on or find yourself in oncoming traffic. The rules of social interaction are not encoded in law and you better just figure it out. It is really a reversion to a sort of feudal scene where you just need to know who the lords are and how to stay the fuck out of their way.
So, while it’s interesting that the government is trying to pass laws via the government printer, it’s also almost besides the point. They’re making a half-assed attempt to behave like an actual government, but in reality they’re just a collection of people with power and guns and the blank check of terrorism to do whatever they feel like. Surviving as a human being is not as a creature with rights under law, but more of a tribal/animal creature who needs to protect life and limb using their wits and connections. There is a theoretical appeal under law, but once you get in the craw of the state it will be a long and uncomfortable time before any sort of legal issues come into play. That is, if you come to the attention of the state you will be well and truly punished before any trial.
So, while I think opposition to this gazette is absolutely necessary for the big players to whom it applies (unless they want to lose their business) I don’t think it applies to bloggers. Regardless of this or any gazette, bloggers today have about as much rights as a cockroach, and hopefully the same resiliency.