‘RTI can bridge the trust deficit between journalists and audiences,’ says senior journalist

‘The media is biased and has vested interests,’ says 65-year-old ‘Kalu’ of Havelock Town, a retired finance and management executive. ‘Nobody buys newspapers anymore. It’s all government propaganda on one side and then the opposition blasting the government on the other side!’

This type of mistrust in media is prevalent amongst the public but senior journalist and lawyer, Dilrukshi Handunnetti, believes that the use of RTI by media can help bridge the trust deficit between journalists and audiences. ‘Using RTI-accessed information can lend credibility of journalism and journalists both. It offers an opportunity to authenticate information with public records and data.’

Implementation of RTI will also safeguard the sources that media would have previously relied on.  ‘Sri Lankan journalists have had to often rely on whistleblowers, who have, at times, shared information at risk to themselves,’ said Handeunnetti. ‘The need to rely on risky leaks will reduce when journalists have a right to access public records and data bases as a legal right. This will help journalists to be better informed and to include more accurate information in their stories.’

There is still, however, some concern about how media will use RTI. Mathindri previously worked at an international child rights organization and would get frustrated at the sensationalism of media. ‘When I was working in the child protection unit, I saw how the media took child abuse cases and blew it up completely. Just because you have the information doesn’t mean you need to blow it up like that, you need to use it ethically, not just create public panic.’