Candles werelit and a minute silence was observed to pay tribute to the colleagues who have paid the price for journalism

The Public Service Journalism Awards 2007 was much-awaited event among the provincial journalists in Sri Lanka. The glamorous event was held on November 16 th 2007 at the Galle Face Hotel.

Last year 521 applications were received for the awards. There were 748 applications received for this year’s awards. Applications were received from all nine provinces - North, East, West, South, Central, Uva, Sabaragamuwa, North Western, and North Central.

Apart from Public Service Journalism Awards, awards were also presented for tolerance. Awards for tolerance were presented for the first time in Sri Lanka. Public Service Journalism Awards ceremony is a landmark event in the history of Sri Lankan media. The initiative is appreciated by the journalists, and activists, which encourages the provincial journalists.

Seremdi Adi troupe was introduced at the event to understand and respect ethnic diversity. Cartoon depicting media freedom which appeared in Sinhala, Tamil and English were displayed at the venue, and caught the attention of the attendees.

The event was organized by the Centre for Policy Alternatives with the support of the Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance and Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum with the collaboration of International Federation of Journalists.

The Public Service Journalism Awards was inaugurated in 2006.

The awards night began with the beat of the drums

Near a sign directing towards Jaffna, A civilian: “Oh no, it looks like the war has erupted” Another civilian: “Dont you know….it’s Journalists from Colombo proceeding”

N. Parameshwaran, journalist from Jaffna received his award from the Editor of Maubima newspaper Kuruvita Banda. He was awarded the first place in Public Journalism for writing a piece on the shortage of milk powder in Jaffna peninsula.

C.Ranasinghe, Medigiriya provincial journalists of Lankadeepa received his award from the News Editor of Sunday Thinakkural R. Bharathy

The Public Service Journalism Awards Ceremony is held to encourage the provincial journalists

The winner of Western Province B. L. D. Nandasiri, Moratuw area journalist of Lakbima received his award from the Director of Sri Lanka Press Institute Ranga Kalansooriya

Media personnels covering the event

Ajith Vasantha Yapa, journalist of Uva Community Radio, received his award from the Chief Editor of Young Asia Television Mrs. Sharmini Boyle

Comedy item by Wijaya Nandasiri and Rodney Warnakula

"The journalists in Sri Lanka are still courageous amidst the current situation in the country" commended a Western journalist recently.

V. T. Sagathevarajah, Amapara area journalist of Virakesari received his award from the Editor of the Sunday Virakesari P.Devaraj

Ranjith Jayasundara, Vavuniya area journalist of the Lankadeepa received his award for tolerance in Northern Province from the Chairperson of the Neelan Thiruchelavam Trust Mrs. Sithy Thiruchelvam

Audeince at the event

Radhika Devakumar, journalist from Pirai FM in Batticaloa received her award from the Consultant of Centre for Policy Alternatives Dr.Devanesan Nesaiah. She was awarded National Tolenrance Prize. She was also awarded an award for tolerance in Easterne Province

Seremdi Adi troupe performed and African fusion. Their forefathers were from Africa, and the current generation is living in North Western Province

The National Winner of the Public Service Journalism 2007 was Premalal Wijesinghe of the Kandurata Radio. He received his award from International Federation of Journalists Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park

Public Service Journalism promotes journalists who strive to adhere public service values in their journalistic practice

National Winner of the Public Service Journalism Awrads 2007 Premalal Wijesinghe of the Kandurata Radio was greeted by the convener of the Free Media Movement Sunanda Deshapriya

Group photo of the winners

Journalists in Sri Lanka have united and decided to voice together against the suppression of media freedom

Friday, November 16, 2007

Speech by Jacqueline Park, Director, Asia-Pacific, International Federation of Journalists, Colombo, Sri Lanka

It is a great pleasure to be here again for Sri Lanka's second Public Service Journalism Awards to recognize the important and valuable work of provincial journalists.

These awards are all about promoting, recognizing and consolidating public service journalism in Sri Lanka -- that is, good journalism.

Good journalism ensures that ordinary people get the information they need to make critical judgments and decisions, to plan and live their lives with knowledge and awareness.

Good journalism is free, independent, critical, courageous, trustworthy, reliable and enlightening.

It promotes respect and dialogue. And it represents diverse cultures, points of view and interests.

Good journalism should be serious and hard-hitting, especially in times of political turmoil, conflict and natural disasters.

But the need for hard-hitting journalism doesn't mean that we, as journalists, should not seek also to entertain people – through satire, comedy, stories of optimism, small successes.

Journalists outside Colombo are at greatest risk as violence escalates. They have less security and are more vulnerable to violence from all sides. On top of this they receive less support, resources and pay from their employers.

This was highlighted in a recently released report of a fact-finding mission by the IFJ, the International Press Institute and the FMM to the Eastern Province.

It stresses that journalists there work in unsafe conditions, have weak job security, restrictions on their movements and suffer extreme ethnic prejudice and partisan tensions.

Further, many journalists expressed their concern that Sri Lanka's wider national public is being kept in the dark about vital issues in the provinces.

These awards can help to resolve this by drawing national attention to the important work of journalists reporting from the provinces.

This reveals an admirable dedication and commitment to getting information out, to make sure people know and understand what's happening. --- It is all public service and commitment to community.

These awards are a significant symbol of solidarity among Sri Lanka's five professional journalists' associations.

The renewed strength of the Working Journalists Association. The important collective trade union action of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions in defending the rights of all media workers. The vital work of the Free Media Movement defending and extending press freedom. The work of the Tamil and Muslim organizations in advancing rights of journalists from minority communities. Together they have made a commitment to good journalism and to support their colleagues outside Colombo.

This alliance, supported by the IFJ and based on the historic media charter signed by all groups in 2005, has ensured the media community is well placed to deal with the terrible challenges to press freedom, censorship and safety that we have seen with the return to war.

As we see in the film that will follow -- Many journalists can count their blessings to have received the security and support of their colleagues when they needed it.

Another important success of this alliance is the creation of a national network of journalists in the provinces.

The IFJ has been proud to be part of this important work and particularly to see and share it's success tonight.

Recently the IFJ has been working with journalists community on the challenge we face as journalists when human rights are under threat.

Journalists have a duty to examine and reveal the state of their societies. An important test of a well functioning society is the status of human rights – are they upheld or are they violated?

Do all members of the society enjoy their rights equally – children, young people, women and men, different ethnic groups?

We all have the right to freedom of thought and expression but this right commonly does not exist where human rights in general are widely abused. And journalists have a right to be protected in the conduct of their work.

Rights give journalists objective criteria by which to judge the performance of governments and those who hold power in society.

Getting it right is vital. That is why the IFJ is joining with the journalists organizations to launch the Human Rights journalism prize for the whole media community. Supported by the European Commission, the first prize will be given next year.

We still have a long way to go in implementing and entrenching the principles of public service journalism across all media in Sri Lanka.

But positive change is indeed occurring and we can be proud of what we are achieving and setting in place for future generations of journalists.

Without the solidarity achieved and strengthened in these past few years these times could be much darker.

This is the case for journalists and media workers across the world – we need to work together not only within our countries, but regionally and internationally.

[The current situation in Pakistan exemplifies the importance of strong networks of trades unions and professional associations working together at all levels – community, provincial, national, regionally and internationally – to defend the right to free expression, to promote democracy and transparency, and to improve the quality and impacts of our journalism. This is the driving force of the International Federation of Journalists as a global voice of journalists.]

This same solidarity also factors into the noticeable improvement in the quality of reporting across Sri Lanka – as especially highlighted by these awards. This year has seen 750 entries and a record number of women shortlisted for the awards. For this the journalists organizations must be congratulated. I have had the pleasure to observe over the last few days the tremendous public spirit and community among the journalists as they have worked madly to bring these awards and this event tonight together.

And to the editors that have backed the awards, thank you. Thanks also to CPA for their continued support and to USAID for their generous financial support.

Higher quality of reportage is a concrete outcome of greater professionalism.

That is, more and more we can see the principles of public service journalism in practice, strengthening our profession and strengthening our communities.

Tonight's awards are a part of that process. They reward the dedication and work of provincial journalists and recognise the real-world value and impacts that high-quality reporting can and does have on the lives of ordinary people.

Congratulations to you all.