For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Press Freedom Day marked with panel discussion
Thursday at the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) to mark World Press Freedom Day under the theme ‘New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies’.
Several veteran journalists and senior media professionals took part in the panel discussion. They included Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Chairman Mohan Samaranayake, Lakbima News Editor and Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka representative Rajpal Abeynayake, Lakshman Gunasekara, representative of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) representative Ranga Jayasuriya and Free Media Movement (FMM) representative Ms. Dileesha Abeysundara.
The discussion was moderated by Daily Mirror Editor Ms. Champika Liyanaarchchi. The discussion concentrated on the issues of practising media freedom nationally and globally emphasizing on the emergence, impact and the expansion of new media in the modern world. The launching of the source book for journalists also took place at the event.
Mr. Abeynayake said that the impuissance of the media itself has led to the limitations in media freedom and said it is important for the media to look inwards to solve their own woes in reporting before looking into the other aspects of professional journalism.
Mr. Samaranayake shed light on the matter of the media being biased to certain entities. He said that even though the so called ‘Arab Spring’ and talks about regime change are taking place a great deal nowadays, no proper social or political transformation is visible. He shared the view that the best interests of the media are served by providing true and accurate information.
“As long as the media is a profit making enterprise, there can never be media freedom” Mr. Samaranayake said. SAFMA representative Mr. Gunasekara said that the new media plays an important role by engaging in the service of providing information to people but there should be a standardization of media since there are many novel ways to express ideas such as citizen journalism which is often subjective.
FMM representative Ms. Abeysundara said that while there is a transformation of people from traditional media to new media but also stated that there is a slow expansion and development of new media in Sri Lanka. She said that during the thirty year ethnic conflict in the country, freedom of expression was violated numerous times.
She said that the media did not present any effective reports on certain issues such as the LLRC recommendations, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the post-war issues. No discussions on these issues were presented by the media. Media are the responsible stakeholders for the loss of media freedom, she said.
SLWJA representative Mr. Jayasuriya spoke on the lack of investigation into abductions and killings of media professionals for doing their job. He said that the media is not only an information providing mechanism but also a balancing entity between the judiciary and executive parties.
There was a question and answer session during the discussions with the active participation of the audience.