Media must respect vulnerable groups in their line of duty - Minister | Daily News

Media must respect vulnerable groups in their line of duty - Minister

Mass Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma requested the media to be careful and considerate when reporting matters on children, women’s issues, mental health and differently abled ensuring that they are never put at risk, humiliated or inconvenienced. Hence, he invited media bodies and media unions to join the Media Ministry in a collective dialogue to formulate principles and guidelines to help journalists report on such issues in a way that enables them to serve the public interest without compromising the rights of such vulnerable groups.

The Minister also suggested that all media bodies, unions and the Ministry should come together and formulate a set of media ethics through collective discussion that is similar to some   of the international media institutions such as BBC, Time Warner and News Corp.However, he insisted that these media guidelines should not infringe on the freedom of the media. “We could also include new angles of media reporting such as reporting on matters related to children, the differently abled, mental health issues women’s issues etc. I intend to ensure that our state media institutions engage in such reporting in line with these ethics as an example to others,” he noted.

He said that during his tenure as the Media Minister, he intends to ensure the media industry in this country is uplifted to meet the modern challenges and changes.

Accordingly, he said that the biggest accomplishment was to be able to establish the Chartered Institute of Journalists in Sri Lanka within my short term of 98 days as the Media Minister.

“It is with great pleasure that I announce that Cabinet approval was obtained to establish a journalism school affiliated to the Chartered Institute of Journalists so that journalists could follow systematically formulated courses. As I see it, the biggest challenge faced by our journalists is the lack of a proper training. Although functional literacy is at a higher level in the country, in the media field, I believe its at a rather low level. Hence, with such a level of functional literacy in the media field, the disadvantages and harm it could cause far outweighs the benefits. Therefore, it is vital to increase the level of functional literacy in the media field. With this aim in mind, we have made plans to establish media circles targeting 5000 O/L and A/L students and affiliate them with the Chartered Institute of Journalists,” Minister Alahapperuma noted.

He said that the aim is to educate the younger generation on proper media literacy in order to ensure a future generation that knows how to use media in a meaningful and responsible manner.

The minister said that as a young journalist, he had ambitiously dreamed of winning the Pulitzer price and enthusiastically followed the works of those who had won this award.

He said however, it was unfortunate that in Sri Lanka there was no such awards for the recognition or appreciation of journalists. However, he said it was a great privilege and accomplishment for him to be able to create such an appreciation for journalists during his term as the minister.

The Media Minister also said that the government had taken steps to provide journalists with a free insurance scheme ‘Asi-disi’. He noted that the government had introduced the Asi-disi insurance scheme in order to encourage journalists and provide them protection. “This insurance scheme will be launched on December 02nd, that is in another week’s time, under the patronage of the President and Prime Minister. As the Minister, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Finance Minister, for allocating funds to support this initiative, the President and Prime Minister for their support and encouragement to make this a reality and my predecessors, Bandula Gunawardena and Keheliya Rambukwella.”

Minister Alahapperuma also noted that while the media field is fast expanding in numerous new ways, the laws that exist under the Media Ministry are fast becoming obsolete. “Therefore in order to update these laws so that media institutions could be turned into profit-making entities, we obtained Cabinet approval last Tuesday (23). Take for example the Postal Act, it was formulated 113 years ago and was last updated in 1973. Similarly, the Broadcasting Act was in 1967 and the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act, was in 1973. Hence, these laws need to be amended and updated in order to meet the present day requirements,” he added.

The Media Minister also paid special tribute to the postal service for carrying out a silent service to society which is often gone unnoticed. He pointed out that if not for the postal service, many people would not have been able to obtain their required medications. Yet their services were never appreciated or recognised.

He also proposed the development of the state printing press in order to enable all state printing matters to be handled by them. Further, the minister extended his gratitude to the President and MP Seetha Arambepola for enabling the transfer of the State Printing School, the only one in the country under the Media Ministry.

He said that although plans were made to digitalise the television transmission network way back in 2014 and complete the project by 2021, it had not even got off the ground until now. “However, we have commenced this project with the assistance of the Japanese Government and it is expected to be completed within four years.”

The Media Minister also made a special request of the media reporting on parliamentary proceedings not to only focus on the violent and unruliness and give priority to meaningful philosophical matters.

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