Wednesday, 15 October 2003  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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Journalists granted full freedom under UNF Govt. - Media Minister

"Powers hitherto enjoyed by the Press Council manned by officialdom to adjudicate on activities of journalists will be vested in journalists and professionals once the Press Complaints Commission starts functioning.

The Government has granted journalists full freedom to engage in their profession by withdrawing the draconian criminal defamation laws. This freedom will be further guaranteed when the government introduces the Freedom of Information Act in Parliament shortly", said Mass Communication Minister, Mr. Imthiaz Bakeer Markar.

Minister Markar was addressing the 48th AGM and Journalism Diploma Awards Ceremony of the Sri Lanka Press Association at the Hotel Ranmuthu, Kollupitiya as the chief guest on Sunday.

Minister Bakeer Markar further said "we are meeting you at a time when very significant changes are taking place in the country. At a time when the Government is engaged in transforming the temporary peace gained after ending two deaces of war into a permanent peace, significant changes are taking place in the country by utilizing the peace dividend to the development effort. The prime responsibility of taking this message to the people is cast on the journalists. In this context the duty of the journalists is a decisive one."

Minister Imthiaz Bakeer Markar said in this situation it is imperative for the journalists to act as a truly independent person without being led by a government or industrial agenda or personal views and considerations.

Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe who clearly understood this situation has been taking a series of steps to guarantee journalistic freedom from the time of the previous regime.

The Minister said countries like Great Britain which had better experience in the media sector have very efficient and effective Press Complaints Commissions functioning in their countries and as such the international community would closely observe the functioning of Sri Lanka's Press Complaints Commission.

Professor J.B. Dissanayake addressing the gathering said with the advent of the new millennium a couple of significant changes took place in the world. One of them is the technological revolution. Planning and development through digital technology should be introduced to the literary field too.

The second is the acceptance of English as a universal publishing language. However while giving pride of place to English, Sri Lanka in particular should not forget the Sinhala and Tamil languages. He said Sinhala is a living language and it should undergo an evolution corresponding to the social evolution to ensure its protection. The Sri Lanka Press Association also inaugurated a special fund to assist needy journalists on this day.

Associations' patron D.F. Kariyakarawana inaugurated the Fund by making a personal contribution of Rs. 100,000. The initial grant of Rs. 50,000 made under the said Fund was handed over to Hema De Silva by Minister Imthiaz Bakeer Markar.

The Minister also awarded certificates to journalists who completed a Diploma in Journalism conducted by the Association.

Secretary, Ministry of Mass Communication, Kumar Abeysinghe, ITN Chairman, Gayiruka Perusinghe, members of the Association Executive Committee and a large number of print media representatives were present on the occasion.

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