Ninety-three complaints were made by the public against newspapers in 2008 to the self-regulatory Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) with 72 against Sinhala newspapers, 18 against English newspapers and three against Tamil newspapers, according to the annual report of the PCCSL released this week.
PCCSL’s Dispute Resolution Council (DRC) Chairman Sam Wijesinha presents a certificate to one of the winners of an all-island essay competition on journalist ethics conducted in association with the Ministry of Education.
The report presented at the Annual General Meeting of the PCCSL held at the Sri Lanka Press Institute auditorium on Monday (July 27), says that additionally, 131 complaints were resolved outside the PCCSL process by editors exercising the ‘Right of Reply’ provision offered to their readers.
The report by the PCCSL Secretariat was tabled and approved at the AGM and released to media institutions and the public on Wednesday.
The Dispute Resolution Council (DRC) for the year under review comprised former Secretary General of Parliament Sam Wijesinha (Chairman), and five non-media representatives (former Government Agent Devanesan Nessiah, Attorney Sithie Thiruchelvam, former Zahira College Principal and one-time Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Javid Yusuf, Chartered Accountant Lucille Wijewardene and Management Executive Dion Schoorman) and five representatives of the media (Siri Ranasinghe, Jayathillake de Silva, Pramod de Silva, Vijitha Fernando who replaced the late Mallika Wanigasundera and Daya Lankapura who replaced G.S. Perera who resigned due to health reasons).
All council members offer their time on a voluntary basis.
In his message to the 2008 report, Council Chairman Wijesinha states that “the Press Complaints Commission as I have had occasion to remark has shown improvement both in its speed and efficiency in resolving complaints”.
The PCCSL’s outgoing Chairman Ranjit Wijewardene in his message states, “…. self-regulation is not necessarily a fool-proof system of policing the press, and ensuring its professional responsibilities towards the public-at-large. Admittedly, there are many weaknesses. While we have, over these years, tried to rectify as many of these shortcomings, there is still more to be done. Even in advanced democracies where self-regulation of the press has long existed, the mechanism is constantly under review.“The general consensus, however, is that self-regulation, with all its deficiencies is still better than a state-controlled statutory policing of the media with punitive powers that can be wielded against media practitioners and publishing houses.”
The report notes that the Editors’ Guild Code of Professional Practice (Code of Ethics) which was reviewed in 2007 was printed and distributed by the PCCSL in 2008 to journalists and the public.
The report also details various programmes undertaken by the PCCSL Secretariat to train provincial journalists and inform them on the work of the Commission and the provisions of the Editors Code. An essay competition for school children in association with the Ministry of Education to introduce them to the concept of journalism and professional ethics was also undertaken by the PCCSL.
The audited accounts of the PCCSL were also released with the annual report. These audited accounts are published in newspapers since the inception of the Commission in 2003 and are open for public inspection.
The PCCSL is funded entirely by the newspaper industry’s contributions and funds from overseas donors. As a result the Sri Lankan tax-payer does not need to finance this self-regulatory system.
Messrs. Ernst & Young, Chartered Accountants were re-elected as the Commission’s Auditor for another year.
The following were elected to the Board of Directors:
Kumar Nadesan, Managing Director, Express Newspapers Ltd., (nominee of the SLPI),
Nimal Welgama, Managing Director of Uplai Newspapers Ltd., (nominee of the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka).
Manik de Silva, Editor, Sunday Island and Waruna Karunatilake, Reuters (nominees of the SLPI)
Sinha Ratnatunga, Editor, the Sunday Times (nominee of the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka)
Uvindu Kurukulasuriya (nominee of the Free Media Movement)
N. M. Ameen, Editor, Navamani, Mr. Sundara Nihathamani de Mel, Editor, Irida Lakbima and Nisthar Cassim, Editor, Bottom Line ( elected by the House).
The Articles of Association were also amended to accommodate a representative from the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association onto the Board of Directors following the association becoming a signatory to the Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility which was the basis for the establishment of the PCCSL in 2003.