The history of the SLPI goes back to 1998, when the Free Media Movement (FMM), The Editor’s Guild of Sri Lanka and the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka signed a historic document called ‘The Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility’ following an international media conference held in Colombo in April 1998. The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) – the largest gathering of journalists in the country – took part in the conference, but did not sign the Declaration at that occasion. (The SLWJA became a signatory to the Declaration in December 2007).
The Declaration was the starting point of a close cooperation between the three organizations, which in itself is a milestone in Sri Lankan media development. Based on the Declaration, the organizations were able to negotiate substantial changes in Sri Lankan media laws, expanding the freedom of expression and the upliftment of the professional standards in Sri Lankan journalism.
The Declaration was also the base on which the organizations built the idea of the SLPI, with the PCCSL and the SLCJ. The concept of the SLPI incorporates all three aspects reflected in the Declaration: training and strengthening professionalism of the media industry; setting standards for professional journalism; and advocacy for reforms so that the media may operate without institutional and other forms of barriers. The SLPI, SLCJ and PCCSL together represent these concepts. While the PCCSL is essentially a self-regulatory body established for furthering media ethics, the SLCJ has been offering one-year diploma courses in journalism and a number of short-term mid-career courses for working journalists since 2004. The SLPI is the management arm of the PCCSL and the SLCJ, as well as the vehicle for advocacy.
With a vision of expanded media freedom, and a more professional and responsible media, the SLPI and the PCCSL were registered in 2003 as non-profit entities under the Companies Act of Sri Lanka. The SLCJ followed suit in 2007. The SLPI receives its core-funding from DANIDA and NORAD.
Milestones of SLPI
October 15, 2003: The PCCSL commenced operations to receive and settle complaints against the print media, creating history as the first self-regulatory body of the press in Asia.
December 8, 2003: The SLPI signs agreements with SIDA and NORAD and enters into a MoU with Fojo as an institutional partner.
January 1, 2004: SLPI establishes itself at its premises at 65/5, Ward Place, Colombo 07 being the first Sri Lankan journalism institute initiated by the media, run by the media, for the media.
May 10, 2004: The first batch of the Diploma course of SLCJ starts. Sri Lankan trainers run the course from day one, on a locally developed curriculum. The course initially offers, Sinhala, Tamil and English medium instruction for print and it is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.
September 20, 2004: The first mid-career course for working journalists is hosted at SLCJ, establishing the college as a local mid-career institute meeting the needs of the industry.
October 1st and 2nd, 2005: The SLCJ sells its first mid-career course to a local media company when the Lake House group uses SLCJ to train its photojournalists.
March 1, 2005: The SLCJ examines its first Diploma batch: All students are offered employment at newspapers.
August 10, 2005: The SLPI wins a tender and enters into a contract with the UNDP to conduct a series of training workshops for regional journalists on how to report the tsunami reconstruction.
September 23, 2005: The SLPI enters an agreement with DANIDA to expand the SLCJ to TV and radio training. This exposes the SLPI into broadcast media leading SLPI to become the one-and-only media development institution in the country that deals with all segments of media in all three languages.
February 27, 2006: The SLCJ opens its new radio and TV unit, and welcomes its third diploma batch. Sixty students start comprehensive training in Tamil, Sinhala and English medium for print as well as TV/radio journalism. Once again the SLPI broke ground by offering Sri Lanka’s first full time diploma in TV, radio and print journalism. It also becomes the country’s only media training body that can boast of state-of-the-art television and radio studios with the latest equipment.
April 2006: An external evaluation of the SLPI is presented and concludes that the institute has done well in its first two years, and that it is still relevant and important for the Sri Lankan media.
The SLPI is approached by BBC World Service Trust, the World Bank, InterNews, ILO, UN OCHA, CPU, PANOS, UNDP, UNICEF, European Union, SAFMA and other local and international organizations for shorter and long term cooperation.
January, 2007: International donors establish a Safety Fund for Sri Lankan journalists under the administration of the SLPI. A separate committee of experts operates as the Steering Committee to the Fund.
August, 2007: The SLPI establishes the Media Resource Centre with a mandate to conduct commercially viable projects for the financial sustainability of the SLPI.
July 2007 – The SLPI further strengthens its Advocacy and Free Media Division.
January 07, 2008: The SLPI shifts to its own new premises, 96, Kirula Road, Colombo 05, a four-storied building with the enrolment of its fifth Diploma batch of students.
June 2009-SLPI launches countrywide promotional programme starting with the Central Province in Kandy.
March 2011-SLPI launches the ‘SLPI Press Club” with the then CEO of the International Cricket Council as the first guest speaker.
July 2011-SLPI commissioned the country’s first assessment of the female participation in mainstream media in Sri Lanka
August 2011-A working party comprising of representatives from both the state and private media across the print and electronic platforms were formed to draw up a structure for a new professional qualification for journalists in Sri Lanka
November 2011-SLPI opens Twitter account
January 2012-SLPI launches presence on YouTube
April 2012-SLPI hosts the “New Media, New Challenges: Best Practices in the Digital Age
A South Asia Training Program” conducted by the International Training Centre for Training Journalists
October 2012-SLPI launches presence on Facebook
December 2012-SLPI hosts conference on Reporting on Regional Security Issues in South Asia
July 2013 – SLPI forges partnership with new donors and initiates new projects
November 2013 – SLPI in partnership with UNESCO publishes a book on “Right to Information; A guide for Advocates”
January 2014 – SLPI along with PCCSL hosts an International Conference on Self-Regulation and Media Ethics
February 2014 – SLPI promotes knowledge and information through its Twitter and Facebook page to increase engagement
January 2015 – SLPI hosts an international Conference in partnership with the Global media Ethics Project on Globalization and Media Ethics
January & August 2015 – SLPI involves in observing media on news-reporting during the Presidential and Parliamentary elections
January 2016 – SLPI re-launches a its new website in a new paltform
August 2016 – SLPI and its constituents long struggle and advocacy to enact the Right to Information Act becomes a reality
September 2016 – SLPI’s nominee representing the Media is appointed to the RTI Commission in Sri Lanka
December 2016 – SLPI publishes a simplified book on RTI – “A Citizen’s Guide to Sri Lanka’s Right to Information Law”
February 2017 – SLPI sets up a RTI Help-line for journalists and Citizens.