Press Institute to take legal action against newspaper

By Isuri Kaviratne

The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) plans to take legal action against the “Dinamina” newspaper for publishing a news item claiming that the SLPI sent a group of persons linked to the LTTE to Norway on the pretext of sending journalists.

SLPI director general Ranga Kalansooriya told The Sunday Times that the SLPI had held discussions with lawyers on Friday, adding that the newspaper had published comments made by the SLPI at a Thursday press conference, but had so far not carried a correction.

Last Thursday, the Dinamina newspaper carried a story under the heading “Eight Tigers sent to Norway under the journalist label – Applications were called by Sri Lanka Press Institute”. The story claimed that the SLPI had sent persons with LTTE links to Norway through Denmark under the guise of journalists.
At Thursday’s press conference, the SLPI denied the allegation made in the news story. The institute said it had lodged a complaint with the Dinamina and had requested the newspaper to publish a correction, and to give the correction the same prominence it had given to the original article.

The article in question, according to Mr. Kalansooriya, had given no sources, apart from quoting a “responsible SLPI officer”. No SLPI staff had been contacted by the newspaper, he said, adding that the content of the news story was false.

A complaint has also been made to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Media Grievances.Mr. Kalansooriya said the SLPI had not made a complaint to the Sri Lanka Press Complaints Commission (SLPCC) because the SLPCC was affiliated to the SLPI.

Mr. Kalansooriya explained that the SLPI had called for applications from journalists for a training workshop on Democracy and Journalism, to be held over six weeks in April and May 2007.

“All 20 journalists sent for the training have returned and are now working presently in their respective newspapers, including the journalists we sent from Jaffna,” Mr. Kalansooriya said. The Dinamina claim that 10 journalists were sent to Norway was not true, he added.

“The first stage of the programme was held in 2006, with 20 journalists sent from Sri Lanka, including four from Jaffna. In 2008, only one journalist went from Jaffna,” he said. All the journalists sent in 2006 and 2008 had been recommended by the heads of their respective media institutions, he added.
He said 20 journalists were chosen in a proper selection process out of some 100 applications received.

Mr. Kalansooriya said the institute comprised five prominent media organisations that had together groomed some 150 journalists over the past four years. The SLPI strives to uphold ethical standards in the local world of media, he said, adding that it was a matter of concern that the contents of the article were false.

“This is a problem of ethical standards of journalism”, he said. Also present at the press conference were SLPI chairman Kumar Nadesan, Newspaper Society chairman Ranjith Wijewardena, Free Media Movement convenor Uvindu Kurukulasooriya, the Sunday Island editor Manik de Silva, and Rivira editor Upali Tennakoon.


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