As we all know the World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. This has provided opportunity for us to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
As at today we have accounted for 19 journalists’ deaths throughout the world in 2015 and 61 Journalists in total during the year of 2014. All these are directly related to their work and one significant incident this year was the Charlie Hebdo case which claimed the lives of 7 media personnel. This illustrates the fact that even in strong democratic countries, making critical views could become a threat, which could be the case in many parts of the world on a daily basis. And we have witnessed the same in Sri Lanka too.
While horrendous acts such as these killings, jailing and physical abuses are considered to be the primary approach for suppressing press freedom, financial sustainability and technological threats have also emerged as a form of impediments towards press freedom. Soft censorship such as indirect financial abuses and government regulatory changes indirectly impacts the critical reporting, leading to unbalanced reports, creating fear among journalists, which eventually compromises the freedom of expression.
Therefore it is paramount that while we may look at only preventing the loss of lives of our colleagues in the line of duty, the above mentioned threats should not be taken lightly. It should be noted that all these have only one objective, which is to suppress press freedom. Let us be vigilant and leave a meaning to those who have sacrificed through their lives and other deeds toward World Press freedom.
The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) is a body incorporated, constituted by the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement and Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association with its main objects being “to assist, encourage and facilitate the Press to exercise and uphold its freedom and be responsible to the Public”. The SLPI is the country’s leading institution that envisages development of media in Sri Lanka through professional training and upholding ethics. It has two major divisions; the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ) which handles the training of journalists and the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) that operates as a mediator between the public and the media.