11th June 2000
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Not a silent night

  • Panel of Judges



    It was the night of the scribes, those men and women who work behind the headlines and the deadlines, last Sunday at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Journalists and photojournalists were all there amidst diplomats and other distinguished guests to pat themselves on the back just this once at the Excellence in Journalism Awards 1999 of The Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka. 

    Last year, at the inaugural ceremony, The Guild honoured M.A. Wimal, a former Editor of Rasakatha, with a Distinguished Service Award and three Lake House journalists who died on duty while covering the war in the north with Posthumous Awards. 

    This year, The Guild honoured three journalists from the three language media who have served the journalistic profession for nearly 50 years. They were S. Subasinghe, S. Gurunathan and Clarence Fernando. 

    Mr. Siriwardene Subasinghe's award was presented by Mr. Mohan Lal Piyadasa, Founder Member and Executive Committee Member of The Editors' Guild. 

    Hailing from Wevaldeniya, Mr. Subasinghe was among the pioneering team that launched the Lake House Sinhala evening daily, the Janatha, in 1953. He was appointed Chief Editor of the Lake House Group's largest selling Sunday newspaper, the Silumina in 1965. Within years, he piloted the Silumina to unparalleled heights with the circulation rising from 180,000 to as much as 300,000, to put it on par with the newspapers with the largest circulation in South Asia. 

    With the change of government in 1970, Mr. Subasinghe was appointed Chief Editor of the Sinhala daily Dinamina. He was the first Editor of the Wijeya and Sirikatha weeklies and when the Sunday Lankadeepa was relaunched by the Wijeya group in 1986 Mr. Subasinghe was the first editor. 

    Mr. Sinniah Gurunathan's award was presented by Mr. A. Sivanesaselvan, Founder Member and Executive Committee Member of The Editors' Guild.

    Mr. Gurunathan entered the field of journalism in December 1959. From December 1959 till July 1966 he worked as the Trincomalee correspondent for Virakesari, a Tamil daily and the Times of Ceylon. Till June 1985, he worked as the Trincomalee correspondent for Dinapathi/Chinthamani and Sun/Weekend published by the Independent Newspapers Ltd. 

    From November 1985 till April 1995 he worked on the editorial staff of the Uthayan-Sanjeavy, Tamil daily and weekly published in Jaffna. He joined Uthayan first as its Chief Sub-Editor, then rose to the position of Associate Editor and was also in charge of Sanjeavy. 

    He has been the Trincomalee correspondent for the Thinakurral since its inception in 1997. He writes political columns and other articles to Thinakurral. He is a fultime journalist. 

    Mr. Clarence Fernando's award was presented by Mr. Ajith Samaranayake, Founder Member of The Editors' Guild.

    Mr. Fernando was one of the more vibrant newsmen recruited by D.R. Wijewardene of Lake House in the second half of the 1940s. He rose from the ranks to be News Editor of the Observer and later Editor of the Daily News. He succeeded E.C.B Wijeyesinghe as Chief of PTC Reuter, and as Bureau Chief of Reuters in Sri Lanka after the Press Trust of Ceylon was terminated. He lives with his wife Hema at his home in Center Road Mattakkuliya. His son Nimal is Editor of the Gulf News weekly magazine in Dubai. 

    Mr. Fernando's award was accepted on his behalf by Mr. William de Alwis of Lake House, who has been his colleague for many years. 

    The Awards of Excellence for the Year 1999.

    * Special Award of Excellence recommended by the panel: Presented by Professor K. Sivathamby, Professor, University of Jaffna and teacher of Mass Communications.

    For their campaigns to protect and strengthen the freedom of expression, the media and media personnel, the Free Media Movement.

    * Special Award of Excellence recommended by the panel: Presented by Mr. Ariya Rubesinghe, Director of Government Information.

    For his travelogue features aesthetically presented and for educating the reader through a series of articles which raised the level of appreciation and understanding of environmental issues, Dharmasiri Gamage of the Silumina

    * For reporting under special circumstances: 

    He suffered physical violence, yet his courage and dedication to duty remained unscathed, he captured the images and wrote about the mayhem unleashed on the streets of Colombo while he and his colleagues were on a reporting assignment. For reporting under life threatening circumstances in the July 18, 1999 Ravaya newspaper, Ajith Seneviratne

    Honourable mention for reporting under special circumstances: For braving physical violence while carrying out their legitimate professional duty while on assignment as photojournalists, special commendations to Buddhika Weerasinghe of Lakbima, Lakruwan Wanniarachchi of Lankadeepa, M.A. Pushpakumara of The Sunday Times, Sajeewa Chinthaka of The Sunday Times, Janapriya Samaradiwakara of the Yukthiya, Asoka Fernando of the Sunday Leader, Lakmal Spencer of the Sunday Leader, Saman Mendis of the Dinamina and H.A.N. Fernando of the Sithijaya.

    Honourable mention for reporting under special circumstances: For publishing under difficult ocnditions, yet informing readers under serious conditions the political, social and military developments in the country in general and the north-east in particular, the Thinakkural.

    Honourable mention for reporting under special circumstances: For continuing to publish under difficult circumstances, the Uthayan newspaper of Jaffna. 

    * Young Reporter of the Year: Presented by Mr. Amal Jayasinghe, Chief of Bureau in Colombo, Agence-France Presse (AFP) and Convenor of the Panel of Judges of the Awards of Excellence programme. 

    For versatility and the wide scope of coverage and exceptional progress, Amantha Perera of the Sunday Leader

    Honourable mention under the Young Reporter of the Year category: 

    Vasana Wickramasena of the Daily Mirror

    * Best Designed Page of a newspaper (colour): Presented by Professor J.B. Disanayaka. Head of the Journalism Unit, University of Colombo.

    For displaying a complicated and controversial story with the use of colour pictures and typographical techniques in a manner that was easy on the eye and easy to read, the centre page of July 18, 1999 in The Sunday Leader

    Best Designed Page of a newspaper (black and white): for the use of caricatures and attracting reader attention while presenting a political commentary in black and white, page seven on October 17, 1999 in the Ravaya.

    * Best Photograph of the Year: Presented by Mr. L.E. Samararatne, veteran press photographer and winner of several local and international awards for photography. 

    For the image that illustrated electoral malpractice and eventually became an icon for the helplessness of law enforcement authorities in the face of organised intimidation, the front page picture in The Sunday Times of January 31, 1999 taken under difficult and hazardous circumstances, Dilshika Jayamaha. 

    Honourable mention under the Best Photograph of the Year: The image that captured the violence and the villains during voting, published in the Lankadeepa, Divaina and The Island of January 29, 1999, Janapriya Samaradiwakara.

    Honourable mention under the Best Photograph of the Year: For an image that portrayed a poignant moment during President Chandrika Kumaratunga's acceptance speech, the front page picture in the Daily Mirror of December 23, 1999 taken by Daminda Harsha Perera

    * Best Photographer of the Year: Presented by Mr. L.E. Samararatne, veteran press photographer and winner of several local and international awards for photography. 

    For a series of images conveying human interest in what would otherwise be mundane, capturing irony, curiosity and humour, Gemunu Wellage of The Sunday Times

    The Photographer of the Year has been selected by the Indian High Commission for a scholarship to India. 

    * Honourable mention under Best Cartoon of the Year: Presented by Mr. Daya Rajapakse, veteran political cartoonist, who was attached to Lake House for several years and now a free lance contributor to Sinhala newspapers.

    For his depiction of the state of cricket and commendable political satire, with special mention for a cartoon in the Gnanartha Pradeepaya of August 22, 1999, Viroshan Wickremeratne

    * Scoop of the Year: Presented by Mr. Iqbal Athas, the winner of The Journalist of the Year Award of The Editors' Guild last year (1998). 

    For breaking the story that eventually led to the authorities reversing the offending action that could have caused an injustice to society. The story was picked up later by others while this newspaper kept on pursuing it until those responsible for the wrongdoing were disciplined. The scoop that brought about results Amathy Daruvanta satha panahata idam, (Land at 50 cents for minister's children) in the Yukthiya of November 14, 1999. Honourable mention under the Scoop of the Year category: The story that broke a deal gone sour, a payment of 250 million rupees from the state to an aggrieved foreign company, 'Government pays Evans Rs. 250 million' by Suranimala in the Sunday Leader

    * Upali Wijewardene Award for Human Interest Reporting: Presented by Ms. Lakmini R. Welgama, Chairperson of Upali Newspapers Ltd. 

    Mr. Upali Wijewardene was one of Sri Lanka's most successful businessmen who turned his interest to newspaper publishing in 1981 opening new vistas for journalism at a time when state control of the media had taken a grip on the profession. 

    For the portrayal of one mother's battle to educate a one-armed child, a victim of medical negligence and finally bringing a happy ending to an otherwise tragic story, for an emotional piece in the Sunday Leader of August 29, 1999 headlined 'Good schools do not take children without hands', Ranee Mohamed.

    Honourable mention in the Human Interest Reporting category: For a story of two children whose mother is sentenced to a life term on a drug charge, for her story headlined 'A mother and her children, torn apart by a life sentence' in the Daily Mirror of May 12, 1999, Namini Wijedasa

    Honourable mention in the Human Interest Reporting category: For a moving account of an adopted child returning to her country of birth in search of biological parents, the story headlined, 'Amma, where are you?' in The Sunday Times of August 15, 1999, Kumudini Hettiarachchi.

    * Sepala Gunasena Award for Courageous Journalism in the Defence of Press Freedom in Sri Lanka: Presented by Ms. Sandhya Gunasena, daughter of the late Mr. Sepala Gunasena and one-time Business Editor, SUN newspaper and Director, Independent Newspapers Ltd. 

    The late Mr. Gunasena was a great defender of press freedom in Sri Lanka. His organisation once had 17 publications they were all sealed in 1974 under Emergency Regulations. Mr. Gunasena refused to re-open under any conditions imposed by the Government of the day. He was presented with the Lord Astor Award for Defending Press Freedom by the Commonwealth Press Union. 

    His journalism was controversial, his style unacceptable to his victims, yet he courageously pursued what he believed to be right. For his constant vigilance in preventing the erosion of democratic rights, for his crusade for the independence of the judiciary, a vital precondition for a responsible and vibrant press in the country, the Editor of the Ravaya, Victor Ivan

    * D.R. Wijewardene Award for Earning the Appreciation of Peers and the General Public: Presented by Mr. Sujan Wijewardene, Director Productions Wijeya Newspapers Ltd., and grandson of the late Mr. D.R. Wijewardene.

    The late Mr. D.R. Wijewardene as everyone knows was the Founder of the empire known as Lake House, which was in the forefront of Sri Lanka's Independence movement in the early part of the last century. For their constructive campaign to ensure that colleagues affected by violence were able to recover and practise their profession, launching a campaign cutting across political divisions and earning the appreciation of peers as well as the general public, the Photo Journalists' Association of Sri Lanka

    * Mervyn de Silva Award for the Best Journalist of the Year: Presented by Mr. Dayan Jayathillake, only son of Mr. Mervyn de Silva- and a journalist himself. 

    The subjects covered by her were diverse. The depth of her reporting was impressive. From political scandal to political satire, from breaking news to news features, sub-editing and consistently good coverage of controversial as well as crucial political, economic and social issues, Sonali Samarasinghe of the Sunday Leader

    The Awards of Excellence 1999 were co-sponsored by Reuters Ltd., Ceylon Tobacco Company Ltd., Masons Mixtures Ltd., Slimline (Pvt) Ltd., Hatton National Bank and Mount Lavinia Hotel. 

    Panel of Judges

    Ranjit Wijewardene
    Chairman, Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. 
    President, Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka 

    G.S. Perera
    Former Director, ANCL. former Editor, Dinamina 

    Edmond Ranasinghe
    Editorial Director, Upali Newspapers Ltd., former 
    Editor Divaina 

    R. Sivagurunathan
    Former Editor, Thinakaran 

    Mallika Wanigasundera
    Foreign correspondent, freelance journalist 

    Amal Jayasinghe (Convenor) 
    Chief of Bureau, Agence France Presse


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