Empower young journalists to function effectively in the digital economy!

A representative group of 21 young male and female journalists from all districts and communities, spent a full day at an exciting and impactful program on 3rd September 2022.

The program was organised by the FMETU through the IFJ – UTU 2022 project. The purpose was to empower young journalists to function effectively in the digital economy. They were linked to senior journalists and made aware of their professional rights and responsibilities.

The full-day program featured interactive training on mobile journalism. The lead trainer was Dr. Sameera Thilakawardena, Ph.D., an expert in digital media. The participants learned a lot and had a lot of fun as they produced short videos.

The participants are expected to produce videos highlighting issues relating to journalists’ rights and the media industry.

FMETU is very grateful to Dr. Thilakawardena and the Rainbow Institute of Communication for all the support to make this event a resounding success.

More pictures of the program are down here.

Free Assange now!

 

No jail for journalists

The IFJ is calling on the United States government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home.

On June 17, 2022, the United Kingdom approved Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States to face charges, primarily under the nation’s Espionage Act, for releasing US government records that revealed the US military committed war crimes against civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the killing of two Reuter’s journalists. If found guilty, Assange faces a jail term of up to 175 years.

The IFJ is gravely concerned about the impact of Assange’s continued detention on media freedom and the rights of all journalists globally. The US pursuit of Assange against the public’s right to know poses a grave threat to the fundamental tenets of democracy, which are becoming increasingly fragile worldwide. Irrespective of personal views on Assange, his extradition will have a chilling effect, with all journalists and media workers at risk.

The case sets a dangerous precedent that members of the media, in any country, can now be targeted by governments, anywhere in the world, to answer for publishing information in the public interest.

Wikileaks was awarded the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism in 2011, an annual prize to reward excellence in Australian journalism, in recognition of the impact of WikiLeaks’ actions on public interest journalism by assisting whistle-blowers to tell their stories. Whistle-blowers have since been utilised by other media outlets to expose global tax avoidance schemes, among other stories.

The sentence of Chelsea Manning, who collaborated with Assange to release the contentious material, was commuted by President Barack Obama. None of WikiLeaks’ media partners have been charged in any US government legal proceeding because of their collaboration with Assange. Aside from the dire implications for press freedom, there is also no legal criterion for Assange’s extradition and charges.

The IFJ is calling on the United States government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home to be with his wife and children. The IFJ is also calling on all media unions, press freedom organisations and journalists to urge governments to actively work to secure Assange’s release. #FreeAssangeNOW

Thanks To

World Press Freedom  Day interactive webinar…..

The presentation was done at the World Press Freedom  Day interactive webinar,   organized by the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions and Rainbow Institute of Communication. The theme of this webinar was the same as the Press Freedom Day, theme  – Journalism under Digital Siege. The presenter was Ms. Thusari Gamage, Senior Lecturer in Communication studies, Open University of Sri Lanka.
In spite of the challenges of power cuts, there was a cross-section of media students and professional journalists from several provinces, operating in print, electronic and digital media.  There was a great deal of interest in the topic and the discussion was lively.

Journalists support #Gota Go Home 2022 people’s struggle! Journalists march April 20 at 3.00 pm near Fort Railway Station.

#Gota Go Home Journalists have organized a march near the Fort Railway Station to join the struggle in support of the struggle.
The march is scheduled to leave the Fort Railway Station on April 20 at 3.00 pm and journalists from all over the country are expected to join the march. Following is the full text of the press release issued by the Federation of Media Workers’ Trade Unions regarding the march.

Press release

 April 18, 2022

 Journalists support #Gota Go Home 2022 people’s struggle!

Journalists march April 20 at 3.00 pm near Fort Railway Station.

 More than 10 days have passed since the people’s struggle that began spontaneously, unable to bear the oppression of the Gotabhaya Rajapaksa government. The struggle against the government, which began without any discrimination, is turning into a growing nationwide struggle demanding the empowerment of the people of the country.

All journalists in Sri Lanka, irrespective of their organization, profession, or language, have decided to give their full support to these people’s struggles. The Solidarity March organized by journalists from all over Sri Lanka will commence on April 20 at 3.00 pm near the Fort Railway Station.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU) urges all island-wide journalists to participate in this march in support of the Galle Face People’s Struggle, regardless of organizational, professional, or linguistic differences.

FMETU cordially invites the heads of media institutions are also to participate in the People’s Struggle Solidarity March organized by the people of the country against the oppressive government. The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU) has also kindly requested the heads of media institutions to allow all journalists working in their media institutions to participate in this march and to be free of duty that afternoon.       

Thanking You,

Dharmasiri Lankapeli

General Secretary

Government should take responsibility of attack on journalists who covered Mirihana public protest – FMETU

The Federation of Media Employees Trade unions issued a Press statement about attacks by police and security forces last Friday 31st to peaceful demonstration.

The full statement is as follows.

Press release

April 02, 2022

Government should take responsibility for the attack on journalists who covered the Mirihana public protest.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions along with the International Federation of Journalists vehemently condemn the heinous and shameful attack by police and security forces on journalists who covered the public protests at Nugegoda Mirihana on March 31.  The IFJ is the most influential media organization with over 600,000 members of 167 media organisations and unions in 146 countries worldwide.

During the aforementioned protests, a group of individuals who had identified themselves as the members of the President’s Media Division have threatened the journalists to step out of reporting and intimidated senior journalist Tharindu Jayawardena with threats. The journalist has lodged a complaint at the Mirihana police on the incident. Among those who had been taken into custody after beating and torture by police and security forces were journalists Avanka Kumara, Chatura Deshan of Sirasa TV, Sumedha Sanjeewa Gallage, Pradeep Wickramasinghe, Nissanka Werapitiya of Derana TV and Waruna Wanniarachchi of the Lankadeepa newspapers. The police were not merciful to admit those journalists with severe wounds and injuries to a hospital.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the brutal attack on journalists had been unleashed with the intention of preventing them from performing their duties to report the protests. The journalists had been attacked even after they produced the Media Accreditation Cards issued to them by the Director-General of Government Information. The FMETU emphasizes that the government should take full responsibility for the heinous crime committed against journalists.

The FMETU strongly demands that the government should take immediate action to conduct an impartial investigation of the attack on journalists and ensure the sacred right and responsibility of journalists to report facts and disseminate information to people and not infringe on people’s rights to freedom of expression.

Sincerely.

                 

Dharmasisr Lankapeli,                                                                               

General Secretary

 

Sri Lanka’s Personal Data Protection Bill Leads to Public Uproar.

A major fuss has arisen over Sri Lanka’s Personal Data Protection Bill, to be taken up for the 2nd reading in Parliament on Wednesday (9th March 2022).

Media organisations and civil society have both protested over the fact that a ‘Government controlled entity will be given the power to decide what data should be protected with very wide coverage on ‘special categories of data. The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka has pointed out that this will be a problem to journalistic reporting of corruption stories as the Bill places obstacles by protecting ‘personal data relating to offenses, criminal proceedings, and convictions.

 

In an editorial that first pointed to the dangers, the widely read the Sunday Times asked on February 13th, 2022 as to why, ‘In an era of information disclosure that Sri Lanka has pledged to be part of after passing a world-class Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2016, …a Bill on Data Protection presented to Parliament recently by the Prime Minister must revert to ancient terminology by including a clause on Official Secrecy?’

The editorial warned that ‘care must be taken to ensure that protection of data does not prevent the release of information which is in the public interest and observed that the Bill, as it stands, ‘contains too many ambiguities that must be corrected before it passes into law.’

The Young Journalists Association (YJA) meanwhile challenged the Bill in the Supreme Court but the petition was dismissed by the Court on a technicality, that it had been filed in the Supreme Court registry out of time. This was despite the petition being filed just minutes after the official time of filing which was 3 pm. The YJA had stated that ’journalistic purpose’ should be stated as an exception to the processing of data as is the case in all other countries, that the RTI Act should be balanced with the purpose of data protection, and that the Data Protection Authority should be independent rather than ‘Government controlled’ as the Bill provides.

It also pointed to the dangers of a ‘Government controlled’ Authority being given the power to impose hefty fines up to ten million rupees per every act seen as ‘violating’ the Act without these other concerns being addressed.

Colombo Telegraph learns that the Government has promised media organisations that their concerns would be addressed while the Opposition has assured that it would support the amendments proposed by the media to the Bill.

On Monday, the Sri Lanka Press Institute together with the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka (NSSL), Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Tamil Media Alliance (TMA), Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF), Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU), South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) and the SLPI, issued a press release informing that they had handed over a letter to the Minister of Mass Media, Minister of Justice and the Secretary of the Ministry of Information Technology highlighting key concerns with the Bill.

They pointed to the fact that while the proposed Personal Data Protection Act is being recognised as an important one in the digital era, serious thought should be given to the implication and infringement to the rights of professional journalism and media freedom. It was emphasized that definitions regarding personal data and special categories of personal data remain arbitrary given that special categories also include data related to offenses, criminal proceedings and convictions which do not recognise the journalistic right to exercise free speech in delivering such information.

It was also noted that the proposed Act would prevail over every other law in any inconsistency, including the Right to Information (RTI) Law which would compromise the access to information that the public and journalists have via the prevailing RTI law.

Transparency International Sri Lanka meanwhile also raised similar concerns, asking the drafters of the Bill why they had decided to omit important protections in the initial draft on personal data protection released in 2019. The preamble of the 2019 framework refers to Sri Lanka’s constitutional Right to Information (RTI)as a crucial right, recognizing the need for the public interest to be balanced with the protection of personal data.

However, as TISL pointed out, this balance is not reflected in the Bill which had omitted that reference. Also, the 2019 framework had called for the appointment of independent three members to a nine-member Data Protection Authority through a public application process. The Bill has deleted that safeguard, saying only that the Authority is to be a ‘Government controlled entity.’ This is in violation of all international standards which call for the Data Protection Authority to be independent of the government.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka(BASL) has however remained silent on concerns relating to the Bill, particularly the lack of independence of the proposed Data Protection Authority. Its office bearers, including its President Saliya Pieris and others, have applauded the Bill while not acknowledging its serious drawbacks, young journalists who challenged the Bill in the Supreme Court say, pointing out that it is the duty of the Bar to objectively respond to bills that infringe on rights.

Colombo Telegraph also spoke to several experts on data protection, including a senior law academic associated with the early drafts of the Bill who questioned as to why the 2019 data protection framework had been radically changed. A researcher who had worked with the Right to Information Commission (RTIC) clarified that though it is claimed by those pushing the Bill through Parliament, that the Bill had been examined by the RTIC, this was distorting facts as it was only the 2019 framework on data protection that had been sent for feedback to the RTIC.

If Parliament approves the Bill in its current form, it will force all Sri Lankan editorial newsrooms, non-governmental organisations, and research institutes to have Data Protection Officers who will answer to the dictates of a ‘Government-controlled’ Data Protection Authority, experts warn. This will further erode the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, already under massive threat by a security state, they say.

Courtesy Colombo Telegraph

 

 

January is still black! Murderers and accused are live freely! Where is the justice for crimes against journalists?

I wrote a note for using the “Black January” leaflet that celebrates 2022. It is the request of Duminda Sampath of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association and the Lasantha Silva of the Free Media Movement.

I decided to develop it as an article after several events-related notes are circulating on Facebook. Uvindu’s note is prominent among them.

According to media activists, January is a “black” month. It is called “Black January”. This is because January has to be used as a month to pressure those responsible to seek justice for the crimes committed against those journalists and media institutions.

The month of January was chosen not because there were no other months of the crimes. This is because most incidents against journalists and media institutions took place in January.

That’s it!

Subramaniam Sugirdarajan was assassinated on January 24, 2006. Lal Hemantha Mavalage on SLRC was attacked on January 23, 2008. The Sirasa studio complex was set on fire attack by using claymore mine on January 6, 2009. Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader was assassinated on January 08, 2009. Upali Tennakoon the incident took place on January 23, 2009. The disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda took place on January 24, 2010. The Lanka e News office was set on fire on January 30, 2011.

Thus, January is a “black” month for journalists, because of the number of horrific, barbaric attacks on journalists and media institutions during previous regimes. During the period 2000-2015, a civilized society did not tolerate that crime against the media. Part of the list of horrific events can be summarised as follows.

Assassinations
  1. The assassination of Mile Vehicle Nimalarajan 2000.10.19
  2. Assassination of Aiyathurai G. Nadesan on 01.05.2004
  3. Assassination of Kandasamy Iyer Balanadaraj on 16.08.2004
  4. The assassination of Dharmaratnam Sivaram on 28.04.2005
  5. The assassination of Relangi Selvaraja on 12.08.2005
  6. Assassination of Subramaniam Sugirdarajan 24.01.2006
  7. The assassination of Sampath Lakmal de Silva on 01.07.2006
  8. The assassination of Subhash Chandra Bose 2007.04.16
  9. Assassination of Selvarasa Rajivvarman on 29.04.2007
  10. The assassination of Sahadevan Nilakshan on 01.08.2007
  11. The assassination of Paranirupasingham Devakumar on 28.05.2008
  12. The assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge 08.01.2009
Disappearances
  1. The disappearance of Subramaniam Ramachandran 2007.02.15
  2. The disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda on 24.01.2010
Victims of attacks
  1. Attack to T M G. Chandrasekara 2007.12.27
  2. Assault to Lal Hemantha Mawala 25.01.2008
  3. Abducted/Assaulted Keith Noyer 22.05.2008
  4. Assault on Namal Perera 30.06.2008
  5. Shooting to Radika Devakumar 08.09.2008
  6. Assaultedto Upali Tennakoon 23.01.2009
  7. Abduction / Assaulted Viddyadharan 2009.02.26
  8. Abduction / Assaulted Poddala Jayantha 01.06.2009
  9. Assaulted Gnanasundaram Kuganathan 29.07.2011
  10. Threatening Mandana Ismail 23.08.2011 and 2013
  11. Mandana Ismail Threatening 23.08.2013

Attacks on media institutions

  1. Bombing to Sudaroli Press Institute 29.08.2005
  2. Set on fire / Shooting to Uthayan newspaper 2006.6.2 / 2013.04.13
  3. Destruction of Sirasa TV studios 06.01.2009
  4. Attack on Siyatha 30.07.2010
  5. Arson of Lanka Enews 30.01.2011

In addition to this list, 12 media workers, newspaper agents, distributors, were reportedly killed by indirect attacks aimed at preventing them from commenting.

(Excerpted of the dates and details of these incidents from by a note of Seetha Ranjani)

In almost all these incidents, all the basic complaints required for justice have been filed. Just as most of the list above were Tamil journalists, all 12 slain media workers also were Tamils.

Investigations of the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge and the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda have identified suspects but the inquiries of them have been blocked. On February 26, 2010, the Police Terrorism Investigation Division arrested a man named Jesudasan in connection with Lasantha’s murder. The suspect who was arrested was identified as P.S. Jesudasan died suddenly in prison.

Lasantha’s elder brother, Lal Wickramaratunga said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had told him three times that “General Fonseka killed Lasantha”. The good governance government that came to power in 2015 removed Lasantha’s murder investigation from the Terrorism Investigation Division and handed it over to the CID. That investigation was also not had done properly inquire.

Police announced that an Army intelligence sergeant has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the July 16, 2016 murder of Lasantha Wickremaratunga. The Army Intelligence Sergeant who was arrested on July 27, 2016, identified the driver of Lasantha Wickramaratunga during an identification parade held in court. The police told the court that the soldier had also been charged in connection with the assault on Upali Tennakoon. Lasantha’s body was exhumed on September 27, 2016, for a new autopsy. Relevant investigations were also stalled to some extent.

The case of Lasantha Wickrematunge’s murder was scheduled to be heard in the Hague People’s Court on January 12 and 13.  The case hearing has been adjourned until April due to Kovid #19, the case has to be taken to an international court for justice.

Like Lasantha, the police have been able to find significant evidence regarding the murder of Sivaram, the disappearance of Ekneligoda, each of those murders, assaults all incidents.

Subramaniam Ramachandran, who went missing in the North, was arrested at an army checkpoint while traveling with a friend. He called it his home the previous night to call that he was in the army camp and said he would be back soon but did not return.

The T.M.G. Chandrasekaera and TV employees were attacked by Mervyn Silva, the then minister who entered Sri Lanka Rupawahini Corporation. Sampath Lakmal’s mother had said that Sampath Lakmal had left his home for the last time with a friendly military intelligence officer with whom he had frequent contacts.

The name of this army officer also came forward in the case of the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda. The armed group that entered the house of journalist Mandana Smile was unable to fulfill their wish or cause harm to her.

The case against Nimalarajan, who was assassinated in 2000, was pending for a long time and was concluded on the orders of the Attorney General with the acquittal and release of the six suspects. It means saying that no one killed Nimalarajan. Similarly, the Dharmaratnam Sivaram murder case also has been excluded. We do not know how or when it will end.

The last good governance regime period had started several incident investigations such as Prageeth Eknaligoda and Lasantha Wickrematunge. But the present government released the arrested suspects these several incidents accused and provided them with jobs also.

The last good governance regime period had started several incident investigations such as Prageeth Eknaligoda and Lasantha Wickrematunge. But the present government released those who were arrested suspicious were these several incidents accused and to give them various jobs. Who provides security for criminals to remain at large, despite the visible and convincing evidence of crimes against journalists?

We need to intervene to win international attention on the ongoing impunity for crimes against journalists in Sri Lanka. Also, a political determination is needed to bring justice to the crimes against journalists. Journalists will have to continue to struggle to pressurise for it.

The murders, disappearances, assaults, and many other tragedies associated with these events cannot be forgotten by us. At the same time, many key leaders of media organizations had to flee the country to save their lives.

ttps://www.facebook.com/uvindu.kurukulasuriya/posts/10158666353649818 20021 Uvindu’s ending his Facebook note that as follows. “Justice will not be served right now to Poddala, Upali, Keith, and anyone who was killed, who was fatally assaulted,” I am trying to complete Uvindu’s note.

In fact, the activities of media organizations were a headache for the Mahinda regime at that time. As soon as any incident against journalists occurred, five media organizations (Free Media Movement, Professional Journalists Association, Tamil Media Forum, Muslim Media Forum, and Federation of Media Employees’Trade Unions) took immediate action and responded to every incident.

The Mahindha Rajapaksha regime was a crackdown on journalists intensified, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) advised these leaders to leave the country to save their lives. Ajith Seneviratne and I slept that day with Uvindu and others, who had left Sri Lanka, in the safe house on Flower Road, provided by the Center for Policy Alternatives.

Almost all the journalist leaders of those days spent the night in this safe house. Neither I nor Ajiya knew about the departure of these people. When we get up in the morning and look, only both of us are in here. Other friends are missing. It was only after follow-up that we were able to find out about what happened.

Following our friends’ departure, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) advised me also to leave the country as well.

This is that intervention

But I met American official, Jeff Anderson, and politely declined his invitation. Poddala and Ms. Roshaan Theries from the Sunday Observer attended this meeting. In fact, it took a lot of effort for me to include Poddala involved in that discussion. That’s it Poddala knows well. All the facts said by Uvindu, about Poddala are strictly based on the truth. Poddala and I are aware of that and I will add a few other things here.

On the evening of the day Poddala was attacked, as he was leaving work, he came to the door of the Lake House Employees’ Union office and called me “Machan” for a minute. “Aren’t you going to the media organization discussion called by Mahinda Rajapaksa?” I asked him. “No machan, Mahindha was angry with me. You do not go to that meeting ” advised me by Athula Aiya (Victor Ivan) Poddala explained. I said, “machan, it would be good enough for you could attend this meeting Your danger may go away. Poddala did not give an answer and he left. The look of horror on his face still haunts me today also.

I told Poddala about my experience. If Poddala had gone to that discussion, I think Poddala will still be in Sri Lanka up to now. because I have read about Mahinda Rajapaksa. This media organization discussion was convened to alleviate the stigma against the government, both nationally and internationally. Therefore, if Poddala had gone to that discussion, I would still believe the attack that took place could have been avoided.

I said Poddala to come with me by invitation I received from the American Embassy.  Because I had better understand the situation of Poddala.  No matter how much I tried to explain, Jeff Anderson did not care about Poddala at that time.

With the attack on Poddala, Jeff Anderson’s attention was turned to Poddala.

Jef Anderson and IFJ Asia Pacific leaders had exchanged emails conversations with me about the situation. I share them with you for the understanding of who read this article.

These facts were added to substantiate the facts and to support the study of the tragedy’s history. That is why the article was so long. But the time has come for media organizations and journalists to engage in a relentless struggle to win justice as a giant rather than doing something.

At a time when unity is a more and more entrenched and important time, the “Young Journalists’ Association” has reportedly been removed from the “media organizations collective” without question. It is an act of condemning not only to journalists but to all people who were suffering and burning period that has been blackening for twelve months of the year.

However, I would like to note and finished this article and said that the time has come for journalists to join hands with the broad masses of the country to make justice for victims of the country, to defeat “black” January.

Dharmasiri Lankapeli
General Secretary,
Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions

The Media Industry in Sri Lanka and Challenges faced by Journalists!

Before discussing the challenges faced by professional journalists and the problems of the media industry, it is important to gain some understanding of the origins of the media industry in Sri Lanka and its development.

This brief note is compiled to provide a glimpse of the Sri Lanka media industry, its history, and key development relevant to the current day.  I believe that this background information will contribute to understanding more effectively and overcoming some of the challenges faced by journalists and the media industry in Sri Lanka today.

A short note of the history of the media industry

Act No. 05, Registration of Newspapers, in Sri Lanka was passed in 1839. The “Lanka Loka”, the first Sinhala newspaper was published in 1862. The “Lakmini Pahana” newspaper was launched in September 1862.

The Tamil newspaper “Idea Atari”, published in 1841, marks the beginning of the Tamil newspaper in Ceylon.

The Observer and Commercial Advertiser, published by the British Government on January 1, 1832, as the “Colombo Journal” and published on February 4, 1834, is the beginning of the English language newspaper.

In 1923, a printing company called the “European Association”,  was formed..  The initiative of Mr. D.R Wijewardene marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Sri Lankan media industry with the establishment of the ‘Associated Newspapers of Ceylon’. By purchasing almost all the publications available at that time, the ANCL (Lake House) was able to build a monopoly power in the media industry in Sri Lanka.

By the Special Provisions Act, No. 05 of 1973,  the Sirima Bandaranayake Government overthrew Wijewardene and took over the company. Although a gazette notification has been issued by the Act regarding the way Lake House should be maintained as a public institution, no Government in Sri Lanka has implemented the gazette notification for the last almost fifty years ago.

Radio

The history of radio in Ceylon dates back to 1925, during British rule. The radio broadcasting service was called Radio Ceylon. It was transformed into the Department of Broadcasting in 1949 and was later designated as the “Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation” by Act No. 37 of 1966 and is still under the control of the Government.

Television

Launched by Shan Wickramasinghe in April 1979, the Independent Television Network, the “Independent Television Network”, was the first television channel in Sri Lanka. The channel was taken over by the JR Jayewardene Government and is still broadcasting as a state-owned company called ITN.

Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation was established as a Government Corporation under Act No. 06 of 1982 and commenced its broadcasting activities on 15th February 1982.

Following the Television Broadcasting Act, the Maharaja group was issued a broadcasting license in 1992.  MTV launched as the first private television service. Today a wide range of television and radio channels are spread in Sri Lanka.

Social Media

Meanwhile, social media networks are playing a major role in disseminating news and information and play a strong role in challenging the media industry in Sri Lanka.

There are about 70 mainstream newspapers, about 30 radio stations, and 18 television channels operating in the Sri Lankan media industry today.

Despite the widespread presence of both the public and private media institutions in the field of social media, the use of professional media, which pursues quality and media ethics, remains active.  However, there is deterioration amongst the people of Sri Lanka in the level of confidence they have in the conduct of the media in Sri Lanka.

The media industry in Sri Lanka

For more than 50 years, the state media has become a haven for all state-owned political parties and the management and media chiefs of these state-owned media have been political allies of the Government.

From time to time, Governments have initiated talks to free the state media from the grip of the state. However, all of the discussions have been mere fraudulent political promises. The active intervention aimed at liberating the state media has been neglected by media organizations, as well as mass movements.

It is the observation of much of the people in the country that most of the private media do not adhere to professional ethics and lack responsibility. Black money laundering seems to be a personal agenda pursued by some media owners. The use of their cronies for political or commercial purposes, and promote racism, instead of ethnic unity.

It is observed that the state or private media community does not engage in responsible and balanced, ethical, independent media practices without the influence and intervention of the Government or various parties.

Regulation of media institutions

Although there is no formal body to regulate media institutions, there are instances where the media is controlled by Acts such as the Press Council of Sri Lanka Act, the Broadcasting Corporation Act, and the Television Corporation Act.

The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) was established in 1998, with the help of international media owners and several media organizations with international support and media collaboration. Its member organization is the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL). Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ) has unfortunately failed to provide adequate answers to the problems of the media industry.

Therefore, it is important to understand that the responsibility of organized journalism is paramount in meeting the need for a strong, independent media regulatory mechanism today.

Renowned journalists.

I think the current journalist need to read about the pioneering journalists in the Sri Lankan media industry to revive the media industry in our country.

My first choice for that was D. B. Dhanapala. Born in rural Tissamaharama, he was educated at Mahinda College, Galle, and graduated from Allahabad University, India.

His writing career was revolutionized when he first joined the Daily News. His revolutionary “Blue Page” page in the newspaper, Janus (Greek nickname), was able to stir up society at the time. Farewell to the media profession due to disagreements with the administration, his chosen teaching profession.

He often struggled with his mind about the social push that had succeeded in his media mission. Eventually, he joined the ‘Lankadeepa’ newspaper published by the then ‘Times of Ceylon’ to use the pen as a weapon. In fact, the latest Sinhala language newspaper at that time was ‘Lankadeepa’. The name of the journalist (by line) was first added by D. B. It is said that by the bourgeois champions.

Not only did he introduce a unique art of journalism to Sri Lanka, but it became clear to anyone observing how he handled the media that he had become a spokesman for the common people of the country, not bowing before politicians and the aristocracy. He is also the founder of the publishing group of the leading independent newspaper company ‘Dawasa’.

B. A. Siriwardena Editor of ‘Eththa’ newspaper. Siriwardena’s character is a character that current journalists should study. His own writing style is a replica of the claim that Sri Lankan journalists should behave with a backbone.

Dayasena Gunasinghe can be introduced as one of the most prestigious media biographies that should be read by contemporary journalists. Using their pens as a powerful weapon, people chased after civilians where they should be attacked, regardless of rank.

These are just a few of the many memorable, idealistic journalists to help you find out if there is a leader in holistic journalism today with such a journalistic biography and similarly powerful media practices.

Professional journalist?

Today’s Sri Lankan journalist is not recognized as a professional. There are many reasons for that. Those who enter the profession of journalism do not have the proper training or understanding of the subject of journalism. This is the case from most of the heads of the media institutions, to the editors, down to the journalists themselves. There does not seem to be such a need. There is a need but there is no opportunity for it.

It should be noted that there have been instances where media organizations with the help of NGOs have from time to time tried to provide training on media subjects, but these opportunities are often utilized only by journalists working at the local level. Mainstream journalists are also not allowed to participate by their employers. Many media chiefs and journalists are actively proving that they are not professionals.

Media organizations

Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU), Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), and Free Media Movement (FMM) are member organizations of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

In the 1960s, Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd (ANCL) had a branch office at the Ceylon Mercantile Industrial & General Workers Union (CMU) during the period when it was privately owned. The Upali Newspapers’ Employees’ Trade Union, which was formed in the 1990s with the intervention of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions. This union is also now defunct.

Attempts to build a trade union unity in the media sector by forming the ‘Lake House Employees Union’, which started in the late 1980s at Lake House, have not been entirely successful due to various obstacles.

Media organizations have sprung up, even on a racial basis, and there are many other types of media organizations today. It should be noted, however, that most of the existing media organizations are nominal organizations. That is why journalists have little faith in these organizations. It does not appear that media organizations are working to win that trust.

Has the journalist achieved any achievements that can be enjoyed by working separately as a distinctive media organization? Has it contributed to the success of the industry?

What is the solution? at least, can be proposed could unite the FMETU, FMM< SLWJA, member organizations of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) into one collective organization.

Solutions

Most Sri Lankan journalists are not organized.  They are not even interested in organizing themselves into a collective body, Media owners have the advantage of their employees not being organized.

The first challenge facing journalists face today is that they function without an understanding of the value of the organization.

The majority of journalists in Sri Lanka have lost the basic gratuity of the Employees Provident Fund, the Employees’ Trust Fund, the pension gratuity, which is a mandatory part of any professional service,   whether it be on a daily or even on a contract basis. It is no secret that journalists are a group of employees who have lost even such basic rights.

The responsibility of rescuing the media industry from this tragic crisis rests with the journalist himself.

If there is a developed media industry in the world today, it is only in countries where those journalists are strongly organized.

For us in Sri Lanka too, the only way to overcome the challenges facing the journalist is to end all existing divisions and organize as one family.  This is essential not only to safeguard the rights of that journalists but also to motivate the media owners to create a public service media tradition that can meet the aspirations of the people with the challenges they face as an industry.

Dharmasiri Lankapeli

General Secretary, Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions.

An article prepared 2020 at the request of Comrade Shalika Wimalasena of the “Young Journalists’ Association”.

 

 

The “National Union of Journalists” is formed for professional journalists, island wide.

A discussion was held on December 11, 2021, with the participation of a large number of journalists representing a number of districts, including the North and East, with the aim of creating a common national center for professional journalists scattered throughout the island.

Under the guidance of the “Federation of Media Employee’s Trade Unions”, regional journalists have been formed trade unions in several districts in the recent past.

Although applications were submitted to the Department of Labor for registration of the trade unions, the registration was delayed due to practical difficulties that arose.

Taking these issues into consideration, this discussion was organized with the objective of building a common trade union at the national level for professional journalists working all over the country.

After the “National Union of Journalists” was registered with the Department of Labor, the existing every district’s unions would be affiliated with as its branch organizations. FMETU with Executive Committee has been involved and guiding and contributing to all these activities.

The discussion was begun with Zoom Technology on December 11, 2021. Trade Unions with its delegates was the meeting transformed into the inaugural General Meeting of the “National Union of Journalists”. After consultation with all the delegates present at the General Assembly, it was decided to name the Association the “National Association of Journalists”.

Comrade Douglas Nanayakkara of the Nuwara Eliya District Professional Journalists ‘Association, National Organizer of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions was elected as the President of the New Union on the basis of the resolutions of all the delegates present at the General Assembly.

Comrade Bandu Thambavita of the Kalutara District Professional Journalists ‘Association was elected as the Secretary of the Association and Comrade Pradeep Senadheera of the Kandy District Journalists’ Association was elected as the Treasurer.

Also, as National Organizers, Comrade Punyamoorthy Shashidaran of the Batticaloa District Professional Journalists ‘Association and Lakmal Waduge Brothers of the Thanjavur District Journalists’ Association were unanimously nominated.

The Vice President of the Vavuniya District Professional Journalists’ Association was S.K. Comrade Indika Garusinghe representing the Moneragala District Professional Journalists’ Association was elected as the Deputy Secretary.

Comrade Pannariyadarshani Karunaratne of the Anuradhapura District Professional Journalists’ Association and Comrade Anuradha Panjariyadarshana of the Galle District Professional Journalists’ Association are members of the Ratnapura District Professional Journalists’ Association as the Executive Committee. it. I. Comrade Weerawardena, Comrade Saman Dissanayake of the Ampara District Professional Journalists’ Association, Comrade Bandara Pahalawatte of the Kegalle District Journalists’ Association, and the Mannar District Journalists’ Association.

It is also noteworthy that all elected office bearers represent the Executive Committee of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions.

After the registration of the “National Union of Journalists” with the Department of Labor, it was decided to affiliate with the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions.

Sampath Jayalal

Journalists Commit to Social Inclusion and Ethics at British Council – Rainbow Institute ‘Mediathon”

Journalists island-wide pledged their commitment to social inclusion and ethics at the conclusion of the Mediathon, presented by the British Council, Colombo, and the Rainbow Institute of Communication.

The Mediathon was part of the “Strengthening Reconciliation Process in Sri Lanka” SRP program, funded by the European Union & the German Federal Foreign Office.

The Mediathon was an intensive 21- an hour online training, focusing on social inclusion and ethics for journalists.

130 full-time journalists from newspaper, radio, TV, and digital media and media students representing all main communities and languages in Sri Lanka and all 25 districts, successfully completed this training.

The Mediathon focused on the role of media in fostering attitudes and behavior that build a socially cohesive, peaceful, and prosperous Sri Lanka.

The training was conducted by three media trainers. Namely; Chief Academic Adviser of Rainbow Institute and Senior Communications Academic Dr. Mahim Mendis, Foreign Correspondent and Media Trainer, Shihar Aneez and Senior University Lecturer in Communication Studies, Ms. Thushari Gamage.

The curriculum for the Mediathion was designed by a team of British Council experts headed by Ms. Tanya Warnakulasuriya . The curriculum was localized through a workshop conducted by Ms. Warnakulasuriya, with the Rainbow Institute of Communication team of media specialists and media trainers.

 

Participants were divided into 6 groups classified on the basis on language. They engaged in intensive learning and practical exercises during the Mediathon. During the final session of the Mediathon, the participants designed extremely creative posters and slogans, demonstrating their commitment to media ethics and social inclusion.

An awards ceremony was held on 16 December 2021 at the Rainbow Institute of Communication premises in Colombo with 20 Journalists participating physically as a symbolic gesture. All other participants throughout the island participated online through the live stream.

The chief guest at the awards ceremony was Ms. Loise Cowcher, Director, Education and English, British Council.

Addressing the gathering, she stressed the role and responsibility of media in presenting accurate information based on the principle of “do no harm”.

She urged the Rainbow Institute and Participating Journalists to use the Mediathon training material for the benefit of more journalists, The participants were unanimous in commending the program and reiterated their commitment to applying what they learned in relation to social inclusion and ethics in their day to day work as journalists.

Dr. Mahim Mendis expressed his gratitude to the British Council for the valuable opportunity to make an impact in the field of media in Sri Lanka. He explained that the Rainbow Institute had been carrying out projects in media development and empowering journalists in professional skills development for over a decade.

These projects were implemented in partnership with international organisations and the support of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions, FMETU, headed by Mr. Dharmasiri Lankapeli.

Earlier this year, the Rainbow Institute of Communication in partnership with the American Centre conducted 30 hours of training in Media Literacy for two hundred (200) youth leaders in ten (10) districts in Sri Lanka.

The Rainbow Institute also collaborated this year with the FMETU in developing leadership skills of seventy (70) journalists island-wide and facilitated them to strengthen themselves through unionism and networking.

This program also made provision for young journalists and women journalists to take the helm in media trade union activities by stepping into leadership roles in the Executive Committee of the FMETU. This program was supported by the International Federation of Journalists, IFJ.

The Rainbow Institute of Communication together with the FMETU looks forward to carrying out more work to strengthen media professionalism and media freedom with responsibility, contributing to enhancing the role of the fourth estate in a vibrant democracy.

Written By Monique Mendis

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