Feature Article

Dismissive to Sunday Times, acceptable to Hindu

[TamilNet, Sunday, 02 November 2008, 16:20 GMT]
Sunday Times of Sri Lanka rejected an award bestowed on a newspaper of its group by a Sri Lanka government-backed NGO, last Tuesday, saying it does not recognize the NGO or its ‘spurious’ awards. However, the editor-in-chief of the Chennai-based The Hindu, Mr. N. Ram received the ‘Best Journalist of Asia award’ given to him by the NGO in person and delivered a speech on ‘the media's social responsibility to promote peace processes’.

The Daily Mirror, belonging to the Sunday Times group of Sri Lanka was announced for the ‘Best Newspaper of Sri Lanka Award’ for 2008, by the NGO, Sri Lanka Mass Media Society, which was founded as a front by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

"We wish to state that The Sunday Times does not recognize, in whatever manner or form, has never responded to, nor participated in, any spurious media awards ceremony organised by the State or by any private NGOs; or individuals or group of individuals, and recognizes only the annual Journalism Awards for Excellence Programme now jointly organised by The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Press Institute," a blunt statement by the editor-in-chief of The Sunday Times said.

In an article on its editor's award, The Hindu described the Sri Lanka Mass Media Society "as a government-supported NGO to promote excellence in the media world".

The government-backed media awards come amid a flurry of statements by international press watchdogs criticising the Rajapakse government's media suppression and killings of journalists.

Media suppression has also been taken up by the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and its allies, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the SLFP(M), a splinter from the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) .

The UNP alliance has focussed on a proposed government bill for a new licensing system for TV and radio channels in Sri Lanka.

"There is a clause which prohibits TV stations from telecasting anything that affects national security. It means that the Defence Secretary will be the authority to enforce these regulations," UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was quoted by the Daily Mirror newspaper as saying.

"Ram already faces severe criticism in the media of his own country for accepting a State award of Sri Lanka three years back. It is not surprising that the government backed NGO thought of bestowing him with the present award. But, there must be something that is prompting Mr. Ram to continue receiving awards from Sri Lanka, defying public and media opinion in India," commented a Sinhala journalist in Colombo.


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