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DateLine Sunday, 19 August 2007

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Media should help improve people's lives - PM

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake called upon the rapidly expanding media industry to play a more serious and responsible role in eliminating poverty and creating a better life for the people.

Premier Wickramanayake was the chief guest at the inaugural session of the South Asia Free Media Association's sixth anniversary at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel yesterday.

More than 250 delegates from the South Asian Countries participated in the conference where the Bangladesh Nobel laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus was a distinguished participant. The Prime Minister in his keynote address said that as any decent human being has a conscience and a social consciousness, the media too, which after all is composed of human beings must have a conscience and a social consciousness.

Here is the text of the Prime Minister's address:

"Your Association is not just a South Asia Media Association but a South Asia Free Media Association. By this, one would understand that you hold that some of the media in South Asia is not free. I assure you that the media here in Sri Lanka is entirely free.

You could see that for yourselves if you care to read some of the Sunday newspapers published in this country.

What is "free media"? The perception among thinking people is that what calls itself "free media" here largely follow the dictates and agendas of vested interests, often sectarian or anti-national interests.

I must hasten to add that I do not consider all media organs or representatives in my country to be in that category. I must add also that I consider the media important, very important. Because the media disseminates information and knowledge. For any progress to be achieved it is necessary to inform people, to make them knowledgeable, so as to enlist their participation and support. The media plays a vital role in all this.

The media could also be used to titillate, and to amuse. That would be all right in the West. But here in Asia the media should play a more serious, a more responsible role. The media should help, build and to strengthen, to provide a better life for all our peoples.

Our duty as human beings is to wish for and work for the welfare of all our peoples, in other words for the greater good of the greater number. A media conscious of that would indeed be an asset to any country.

Sri Lanka is formulating its own Action Plan to meet its own needs and in keeping with this Social Charter. Government Ministries and departments and some non governmental institutions have contributed to the formulation of this plan and it is being co-ordinated by the staff of the Prime Minister's Office.

The principal goals of SAARC is to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia, to improve their quality of life, to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development, as well as to provide the opportunity to the people of South Asia to live in dignity and realise their full potential.

The main focus of the Action Plan is poverty alleviation. The major components of the National Plan of Action (targeted to be implemented from 2008 to 2015) are as follows:

* Expansion of investment opportunities among the poor;

* Special attention for vulnerable groups among low income families;

* Improving the infrastructure in less developed backward areas;

* Promoting and facilitating houses for vulnerable groups;

* Reducing inter and intra regional disparities;

* Provision of safety nets to arrest further deterioration of the living standards of the poor.

Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said:

"I strongly believe that media should be encouraged to highlight social issues, to monitor progress and promote social justice, democracy, pluralism, tolerance, non-violence and the rule of law.

"The Government is well aware of the role of media in political, social and economic development. The system of Government we have chosen for our nation is democracy with adequate checks and balances between the Executive Presidency, the sovereign Parliament and the judiciary.

"We believe that the fourth pillar that holds the edifice is the fourth estate or the media.

The role of media in nation re-building cannot be overemphasized. The media is the ears and eyes for their communities. Media personnel are at the frontline and it is through them that much of our world is interpreted.

It is the media that fosters human development. Such a media culture can be a vital tool in a society which is struggling to overcome the challenge of poverty and establish a social justice and equal opportunities to its masses."

The SAFMA's Sri Lankan Chairperson Lakshman Gunasekera was elected as SAFMA's new regional Chairperson.

 

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