The Sri Lanka Press Institute in collaboration with UNESCO and the European Union hosted an event to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day 2022 on the global theme “Journalism under Digital Siege” at the BMICH, Colombo on 4th May 2022.
Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka Mr. Eric Falt, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Sri Lanka Ms. Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, and Ambassador of the European Union (EU) for Sri Lanka and Maldives H.E. Mr. Denis Chaibi set the tone for the event by emphasising on the various challenges that journalists had to undergo during the global pandemic. Highlighting the theme of the event, they noted that online harassment of journalists had increased in recent years, with women journalists being targeted in particular, and what measures could be taken to ensure that freedom of expression prevails in the present complex digital environment.
In a special address, Deputy Editor (Investigation) of Sunday Times Ms. Namini Wijedasa shared how the current crisis had brought the work of Sri Lankan journalists to the forefront.
The South Asia Press Freedom Report for 2022 entitled “Strength and Solidarity: The Story of South Asia”, was also launched at the event by Representative for International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Mr. Umesh Pokharel who joined the event virtually. This was followed by a presentation of the “Code of Conduct to Improve Conflict Sensitive Reporting and Safety of Journalists in South Asia” by Media Action Nepal Chairperson Mr. Laxman Datt Pant. The event also featured an online panel discussion. The discussion was moderated by Centre for Media Studies Director Dr. Vasanti Rao and media personnel from Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka shared their insights and experience on online threats faced by journalists. The event was concluded by UNESCO Advisor for Communication and Information for South Asia Mr. Hezekiel Dlamini, who summarised the overall recommendations from country presentations in South Asia and delivered the vote of thanks.
More than 100 participants were present at the event – both in-person and virtually – including prominent guests such as New Zealand High Commissioner to Sri Lanka H.E. Mr. Michael Appleton, Ambassador from Netherlands to Sri Lanka H.E. Mrs. Tanja Gonggrijp, Second Secretary at the Australian High Commission Ms. Lara Sveinsson, and representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, and the French, Swiss, and Norwegian Embassies to Sri Lanka. The audience also consisted of media professionals from Free Media Movement, South Asian Free Media Association, Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, Sri Lanka College of Journalism, Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), and journalists from leading Sri Lankan media institutions.
The World Press Freedom Day is celebrated on 3rd May each year and the event hosted by the Sri Lanka Press Institute, the European Union, and UNESCO, was a renewal of the commitment to freedom of expression, media freedom, and the safety of journalists advocated by each organization.