I am the most harangued and insulted Head of State by the media among all six presidents since J.R. Jayewardene, but the one to assume presidency after me will not tolerate mudslinging and character assassination like how I do, President Maithripala Sirisena said.
He sounded alarm to the media that it must be cautious if intended to treat the next president the same way it treated him during his tenure in office.
Addressing the Presidential Media Awards 2018 held yesterday at the BMICH, the President said he was dissatisfied with canard and absolute lies spread against him in the print and electronic media and other websites with the sole purpose of character assassination.
“I will not be shaken from these malicious acts. I wonder for how long the next president would put up with them. Previous governments did not take steps to honour media personnel like how this government did. The idea to have a presidential media awards ceremony was raised during a conversation I had with former media minister Mangala Samaraweera who opined the yeoman services rendered by media personnel were not being given due recognition by the government albeit artistes and authors are being honoured by the State. Minister Samaraweera was instrumental in organising the presidential media awards ceremony when he was in charge of the media ministry. Selecting media moguls for honours is never an easy task.
“Soon after I assumed presidency, I devised a mechanism to pay royalty to artistes involved in the creation of songs. During discussions on the issue, there was no consensus between composers, musicians and singers. I had to give up on the idea. However, I decided to give it another shot when Lucian Bulathsinghala reminded me of the necessity to introduce a mechanism to pay royalties to those who deserve it. I will do my best to make it happen.
“I am well aware of their grievances because I recount the time spent from 1970 to 1977 as the Polonnaruwa correspondent for Lake House. At the opening ceremony of the Polonnaruwa bus depot, a provincial correspondent complained to me that he did not receive a free bus pass granted to other media personnel. When I inquired about it, the SLTB authorities told me the list of names of media personnel entitled to free season tickets was sent by the journalists’ association. I then explained to him the situation and got the approval of other journalists to get him a free ticket.
“The media has enormous power. It is a game-changer and policymaker. The media can topple governments and brainwash people. That is why the media should be handled by suitable and capable professionals. It is a known fact that the media is controlled not by journalists but by media barons who run these institutions. The media has a big role to play in a country that struggles to stand on its own feet. One of my pledges was to free the media from suppression and intimidation and I think I did it. The best example to prove it is the freedom enjoyed by the electronic and print media today. The media has given the opportunity to insult me freely. Any president in the past wouldn’t have been treated by the media this way. The media does not talk about big-time criminals, underworld figures and corrupt businessmen because they are afraid of them. This is why politicians have become their easy target. All media ministers have done a difficult job and received a lot of blame. I forewarned State Minister Ruwan Wijewardene on this when he was appointed as the Non-Cabinet Minister of Media on the request of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. I hope and pray he will do a good job by fulfilling the aspirations of all stakeholders as he hails from a respected media family,” he said.
Meanwhile, State Minister of Media and Defence Ruwan Wijewardene said the presidential media awards ceremony was a turning point in the field of media.
“The local media was born with the printing of the Colombo Journal newspaper in 1834 by Editor George Lee. In 1925, Radio Ceylon was established. It was the first radio station in South Asia. Later in 1979, Sri Lanka received television, thanks to Shan Wickremesinghe who established the TV ‘Mahagedara’ by launching TNL. The government honouring journalists is a recognition of the services rendered by the media to the nation. To deserve the honour and appreciation of people, media personnel must be distanced from personal agendas and be extremely independent and bold. Furthermore, websites and SM services have become an integral part of social media. But it is a matter of concern to witness that many websites and SM services violate media ethics, guidelines and norms,” he said.
Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan welcomed the guests.(Sandun A Jayasekera and Yohan Perera)