THE RIGHT TO ASK QUESTIONS; MEANS TO ENSURE ACCOUNTABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY

News conferences are a method often used by politicians, political parties, sports teams, commercial organizations and almost anyone who finds benefit in the free publicity afforded by media coverage. The real value of news conferences, however, should be the opportunity that they provide for journalists to probe government decisions, and to ensure that officials entrusted with the decision making process demonstrate more accountability towards their day to day functions. This process buttresses the public right to know and to question decisions taken by the executive. However, in a context where the media itself is threatened and journalists are inhibited from asking questions honestly, freely and fairly, the value of news conferences becomes less. The need to recover the true value of news conferences has become clear.

POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY OF NEW MEDIA

During the last two decades, the electronic media has taken on a greater importance in the media industry in Sri Lanka. In this technological era, radio, television, internet, mobile phones and social networks have assumed central roles in the day to day life of the general public. The electronic media has the power to influence an individual's perception of values, beliefs, behaviour and even to subvert reality. The impact of the new media was clearly seen in Sri Lanka during the last few years through its ability to circumvent the restrictions placed on conventional media. However, this accumulation of power in the new media   and its ability by-pass traditional standards of good journalism  have been a widespread cause of concern

MEDIA EDUCATION IN SRI LANKA

Educational institutions in Sri Lanka representing primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education have been entrusted with the task of educating and preparing the new entrants to the media industry. A proper understanding of journalism, communication and media at these different levels of the education system would ensure that future journalists are more informed, critical and well versed in media issues and would constantly raise the standards of the profession. To achieve this, the current curricula for media literacy and education will need to be reviewed and updated to suit the national context and circumstances. The existing capacity of higher education and training institutions in the field of journalism, communication and the media will also need to be enhanced.

THE STRUGGLE FOR FREE MEDIA

"A free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity in a great society" Walter Lippmann : American Journalist (1889-1974)
The Sri Lankan media has seen varying controls imposed by successive governments during recent decades ,  limiting the freedom of the media.  Freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by the 1978 Constitution have been hampered and to a great extent undermined by government interference. Though the methods used to ensure such interference have become more sophisticated than in past decades, intimidation through threats, abductions and attacks has continued. The efforts of those who believe in free media and the support of the Sri Lankan public are the main hope for establishing an independent media in the future
 

SRI LANKA'S PRINT MEDIA

The print media industry in Sri Lanka is a historic industry with the active participation of great number of stakeholders representing diverse interests. The division along linguistic and ethnic lines is clearly visible through the array of publications in Sinhala, Tamil, and English. Traditionally exercising great power in its ability to influence public policy and the outcome of elections,   the print media has been struggling in recent years with the negative impact of decades of conflict, emergency law, assaults and killings of journalists as well as self imposed censorship.   Instead of highlighting ethno-nationalist points of view,  a primary future objective should be  to direct the diversity of print media towards creating a constructive dialogue among different stakeholders.

Media Reform Lanka

The Media Reform Lanka initiative aims to broaden and inform the perspectives in which media law, media policy and regulation are debated and determined in Sri Lanka, and to provide a resource for those working in this important field. It seeks to identify and clarify the principles and context of media policy and regulation and to widen the constituency which understands the changing international and technological media context.The aim is to ensure that in an age of increasing globalisation and convergence, civil society is aware of the importance of issues of media policy and law for freedom of expression and the safeguarding of the public interest.

The initiative has involved academic, legal, NGO, government, and civil society institutions in Sri Lanka and encourages them to contribute to the debate. Its principal focus is on higher education and professional training. The research team has consulted with educational institutions and media training institutes in Sri Lanka with a view to developing new curricula in Media Policy, Regulation and Lawand supplementing existing ones. The website content aims to support the teaching of such curricula and provide an accessible guide to the issues for identified stakeholder groups. The project focuses on the national context and circumstances of Sri Lanka and the existing capacity of institutions of higher education and training in the field of journalism, communication and the media, as well as those devoted to the analysis of public policy.A secondary objective is to increase expertise and to promote greater understanding of problems common to South Asian countries, and greater cooperation in finding solutions to them.

This website provides access to research and articles- exegesis and analysis - written or commissioned by the research team. It also provides an archive of relevant resource material, including curricula, declarations, reports and comparative literature and reports from other South Asian countries. It is structured in a way that will both give added value to students and faculty staff working in the field, and provide an accessible resource for activist organisations and professionals in India, Sri Lanka and other parts of South Asia involved in the media or media regulation.

The initiative aims to promote Media Policy and Law as a curriculum subject on a sustainable basis, to build up expertise in the field both academically and among other key stakeholder groups, and to equip civil society more effectively to defend and extend the public interest in the fast evolving media landscape of the early twenty-first century.