After fourteen years in operation, the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) has established itself as the leading media development institute in Sri Lanka. With its four operational arms, the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ), the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL), the Advocacy and Free Media Division and the Media Resource Centre (MRC), the Institute offers systematic training for journalists, promotes self-regulation in the print media and advocates for a free and responsible media in Sri Lanka.
In the context of the recent ethnic conflict, the SLPI’s approach in all its programmes has been, and will be, that the institute serves Sri Lanka as a whole: in the diploma and other training courses, when receiving complaints and when advocating for professional journalism. Although not an explicit objective, the SLPI believes that its approach helps to bridge the divide across the length and breadth of this nation. The SLPI strives to maintain good governance, human rights, gender equity and poverty alleviation. It is a well-established fact that a diverse, professional and vibrant media can address these areas in a positive way, while a malfunctioning media does the opposite. The SLPI is a great believer of this argument.
In March/April 2006 the SLPI – a non profit entity registered under the Companies Act of Sri Lanka – received a positive assessment from a team of external evaluators; saying that the SLPI had done well in its first phase (2003-2006), and that the institute’s mandate of training, self-regulation and advocacy remains relevant in the Sri Lankan context.
Following the strong recommendation in the external evaluation report, the SLPI has established a new advocacy unit, which through a joint strategy for the three institutions will seek to advocate for media freedom and professional journalistic standards.
The PCCSL continues to resolve disputes between the print media and the public; and to advocate for more responsible – ethical journalism. In its efforts to improve confidence and awareness of stakeholders about the PCCSL as well as the Code of Ethics it adopts (the Code of Professional Practice of The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka), the PCCSL conducts networking with key civil society organizations and has expanded its membership. Given the fact that there is strong support for a self-regulatory body in Sri Lanka, the PCCSL also plans to explore possibilities of opening up for third-party complaints, as well as initiating complaints on its own.
The SLCJ conducts three core programmes: the one-year diploma course for new entrants in journalism, the mid-career programme for working journalists and the training programme for regional correspondents. This involves curriculum development, training of staff and investment in technology.
The Advocacy and Free Media Division has become a front runner in its field and conducts many programs on an annual basis. While networking with like-minded local and international organizations, it also campaigns on media law reforms in Sri Lanka, as well.
The mandate of the Media Resource Centre is to function as the income generating arm of the SLPI. While conducting commercially viable projects aiming at financial sustainability of the institution, the MRC also functions as a place of gathering for journalists.