Journalism’s first obligation is to tell the truth, President Maithripala Sirisena asserted yesterday.
The President said that journalists should use their pen to give accurate and truthful information to the public without resorting to biased or false news reporting.
President Sirisena lamented that some present-day journalists were trying to protect corrupt politicians for personal gain.
Similarly, there were those who threw mud at political opponents.
The President made this observation,addressing a gathering, on the occasion of the issuing of a felicitation stamp for iconic media personality the late D.B.Dhanapala at the Library and Documentation Board, Colombo yesterday.
“Journalists must always choose what is right, respect the truth and be fair in their writing,” the President said. The President also said the time has come to have hundreds of capable and quality journalists of late D.B.Dhanapala’s calibre to have an ethical and more advanced media sector.
While highlighting the importance of impartiality from a journalist, the President added that the country needs hundreds of D.B.Dhanapala’s to streamline the media field.
The President noted that Dhanapala was an exemplary character in the field of journalism moreover for the ethical standards he maintained in the profession.
“His pen worked efficiently,impartially, whilst without any favouritism. His talents, capabilities and knowledge in the journalism field were borne out by his strong backbone,” the President added.
President Sirisena added that the exemplary,impartial journalistic career of Dhanapala showcases how a journalist should perform in the media field without any bias.
“It can be seen that some journalists are feeding out of the pockets of certain corrupt politicians. These media persons do not dare to utter a single word against the fraud and corruption of these politicians. But,they never hesitate to level baseless allegations against other innocent politicians,” the President said.
The President said that there are, both, pluses and minuses in the country’s print media sector.
President Sirisena added that late D.B.Dhanapala did yeomen service to the local media field, especially to the print media sector.
“During the last few decades, it was observed that journalists were badly suppressed. They (journalists) were killed and assaulted while a significant number of journalists fled the country fearing for their lives. Besides, we saw not only the properties of journalists but also media organisations being set on fire. But that situation has completely been changed. “No journalist is harassed or suppressed,” the President added.
President Sirisena said that the media should play a responsible role, instead of rousing people through negative news. The President added that the media is duty bound to be the driving force of the country, towards prosperity, to create a better future. The President stressed that the media should act in a responsible and acceptable manner while following media ethics and norms,so as to cultivate a positive attitude among the people.
“Even though it is regrettable to mention, the Sri Lankan media has not clearly understood the duty expected of them,” the President added.
President Maithripala Sirisena also recalled starting his career as a provincial reporter for Lake House newspapers when he was 19 years and urged practitioners of his former profession to remain independent.
President Sirisena became a school reporter for the children’s newspaper Mihira when he was in his early teens. “When I was in grade seven or eight of Royal College, Polonnaruwa, I applied to contribute articles to the Mihira and about a week later, I got a letter saying I was accepted.”
He said he later had three full time jobs, the first being a provincial correspondent for the Lake House Group of newspapers when he was 19 years old. From 1970 to 77 he worked for Lake House and later joined the SLFP paper Dinakara in 1977. He was also a grama sevaka before joining full-time politics.