|Thursday, 29 July 2004|
Media plays crucial role to support national development - PM
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse said yesterday noted that the media can guide the nation towards sustainable development through the right kind of reporting.
Speaking at the 3rd Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development General Conference in Colombo, the Premier said that "the media is a powerful tool we have, to mould our younger generation so that they will become citizens who are highly civic minded".
The premier said:
"I am extremely pleased to be able to address the 3rd Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development General Conference in Colombo. I am delighted also to welcome the members of the AIBD to this conference. I must say that we are delighted to host this conference in Sri Lanka.
"We have been in the forefront of radio broadcasting for many decades. It was as far back as 1925 when we shared the second place with Japan and Peru in the launch of radio broadcasting as an entertainment media islandwide, after the first ever broadcast by the BBC 3 years earlier. However, we are latecomers to the world of television broadcasting.
"It was only in 1981 with the live television coverage of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth's royal visit to Sri Lanka that we launched television broadcasting. In 1982, with the launch of the Rupavahini Corporation, nationwide transmission commenced fully. Since then, a number of public and private initiatives have taken television broadcasting forward. Today, in Sri Lanka, we have 9 broadcasting companies, 6 of which operate countrywide and it is estimated that four million households own televisions.
"This is a very satisfactory sign because in 25 years, Sri Lanka has slowly, but surely, has stepped up to meet the challenges created by electronic and IT advancement that goes hand in hand with electronic media development. I am sure, we can look forward to further challenging years ahead confidently and positively, with the full support of the AIBD.
"I am aware that you will be discussing some fundamental subjects over the next few days. Among them, a topic that will be in the minds of many people today is "Creating and promoting a culture of peace". Media can ensure that a culture of peace is created through responsible and creative reporting. I have always been a believer of media's influence on society.
"Also, you are discussing media freedom and national development. It may be a controversial subject, but it is crucial because they are so much connected. Here again, media plays a crucial role to support national development.
"There is no doubt that media can guide the nation towards sustainable development. Through the right kind of reporting, it is certainly the most potent and powerful tool we have, to mould our younger generation so that they will become citizens who are highly civic minded, disciplined and productive. I wish to recommend to this important conference to give a thought to this aspect, as well. In this connection, sharing of experiences, knowledge and practices can strengthen our position to achieve our goals.
AIBD's support again will be very welcome.
"I wish to keep my address to you short and as such, I wish to conclude by thanking the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and their team who have actively sponsored and managed the organisation of this important event.
"I wish to thank all the member countries for being here today and contributing to the success of this conference. Finally, I sincerely wish all our visitors from abroad to have a very pleasant stay and carry away fond memories of our country. I am sure, Sri Lanka will firmly stay in your memory," the Prime Minister said.
In his welcome speech Media and Information Minister Mangala Samaraweera said: "The AIBD is a prominent inter-governmental organisation that is promoting a cohesive environment within the electronic media industry in the Asia-Pacific region.
"I would commend the AIBD for selecting Sri Lanka as the venue for holding the 3rd General Conference and giving the electronic media industry in this country the opportunity of close inter-action with those in the region.
"I am confident that this conference will bring great benefits to our people.
"The media in Sri Lanka is a fast developing industry, playing an active role in the democratic process. Unlike a few decades ago, media has been opened up fully to anyone able and willing to invest in it.
"Except for technical constraints, there is hardly any legislative restraint! that certainly is a healthy sign in any democracy. "But there is growing awareness that the exercise of this freedom must go along with a commitment to media responsibility. In the Asia-Pacific region, our societies though rich in diversity share a common thread of cultural traditions and values.
"There is a strong desire amongst our people that certain social evils associated with modern technological advancement should be professionally handled in a manner more appropriate to our ethos. The media, particularly the electronic media cannot be unmindful of the need to have regard to our common values.
"The broadcasting industry must be in the vanguard in promoting social values and ethics within the context of the globalised environment.
"The surfeit of crime, violence and sex in the electronic media to which even children are being vulnerably, may require proper management by imposing industry standards.
"Those of us in the media must initiate those standards balancing modernity with tradition. Another aspect is the need to cultivate advertising standards that will protect vulnerable sectors of our people, such as students and children. While the State has no plans to curb the existing open environment, the advertising sector of the industry must take note of the growing concern in the country and in our region in this regard.
"Another matter of significance is the growing political bias displayed by the predominant sections of the so-called free media in favour of particular political parties and the problem of ownership is a matter of great concern specially if the media is controlled by a few individuals with vested political and economic interests.
"The expression of views and the display of views in such media have often fallen in line with the agenda of political parties.
"The question of ownership is a great matter of debate even in democracies like the United States at the moment. The expression of views and the display of views in such media have often fallen with the agenda of political parties. One can do so, after declaring to their readers and viewers, one's political commitment but to do so under the banner of free or independent media would be an abuse. The same yardstick would apply to all State-owned media as well.
"State-owned media couldn't be abused to advance the political agenda of the party in power. That too would be an abuse.
"But, this must be distinguished from the role of the State media to foster, nurture and support the mandate given to the government in office in the fulfilment of its obligations to the people. Such a role is a democratic role. It's legitimacy stems from the fundamental premise of the people's mandate as reflected primarily in the election manifesto," Minister Samaraweera said.
Produced by Lake House