Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera, speaking at the launch of the new awards, emphasised the focus of the Government in promoting impartial, balanced and truthful reporting across all mainstream media to improve accountability and governance. Minister Samaraweera noted it was important to organise such events in order to appreciate the efforts of journalists in reliable media organisations.He also said genuine journalists were paramount in establishing an excellent media culture in the country and to evaluate their contribution therein.
“We are always trying to figure out ways to create an excellent media culture in the country. In the search for this, we submitted a proposal to the Cabinet of Ministers to organise a media-appreciative ceremony and got approval to go through with it. We will be commencing this ceremony with sponsorship and advice from the President on 19 December,” he stated.
The Minister also noted that there were a few things that they are trying to achieve by organising and promoting this event. “Through this event, we hope to inspire creative future journalists and to promote credible journalism. We also hope to notice and give credit to journalists who are reporting genuine news. The President is especially delighted that we have taken this initiative to appreciate respected journalists who are contributing to society by publishing unbiased news,” he elaborated.
He also stated that there is a growing issue of more and more inaccurate or fake news being published on media publications, but stressed that banning or imposing restrictions on these publications is not the correct course of action to take.
“In recent times, the traditional media culture is facing substantial issues. Especially with the rise of new technology and social media influencing the outlook of the public, the responsibility of the media to provide credible information is emphasised. These days, fake news has caused quite the buzz all around the world. The way to stop fake news being given emphasis and attention is not to ban certain media outlets and impose restrictions on them, because if we do that, these organisations will have more people logging onto them in various ways, which will influence it more. The only way to reduce the attention given to fake news is to make the general public and the future generation better educated. They need to be better equipped to decide for themselves the plausibility of the news stories that they read,” the Minister added.
Finance and Mass Media State Minister Eran Wickramaratne, speaking at the event, insisted that the current era has the most amount of media freedom. The State Minister said that there is an evident encouragement in the amount of freedom expressed by columnists and journalists when publishing their stories. “The media sector is arguably one of the most important sectors of a country. These days, it is evident that there is an increase of freedom levied to the media than in previous times. Our Government might have its shortcomings, but when it comes to the freedom of the media, we are at the peak in recent history,” he added.
Finance and Mass Media Ministry Secretary Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga spoke of the different types of awards and the selection criteria of the upcoming event at the media briefing.
“There will be 50 award categories that have been designed to span the whole spectrum of media institutions, from print media to digital online media, and four Lifetime awards. In total, there will be 54 trophies awarded during the ceremony. We expect news stories from journalists of Sinhala, Tamil and English media organisations that have been published from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017,” he elaborated.
The Secretary also highlighted that the Mass Media Minister took initiative in making the Presidential Media Awards a reality.
“Minister Samaraweera stated earlier in the year that it was important to organise an award ceremony in order to celebrate the service provided by journalists in all media institutions.
Following up on that, the Minster submitted a proposal on the subject to the Cabinet of Ministers on 12 March and we got a decision on the 27 March on the subject of organising a ceremony for the encouragement of journalists,” he added.
Mass Media Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna also attended the event.