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Editors' Guild to honour five veteran journalists

The Editors' Guild to Sri Lanka will honour five senior journalists this year with the LDS long and distinguished service Gold Medal Award at its annual Journalism Awards for Excellence ceremony to be held on Tuesday, July 6, at the Empire Ballroom of the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

The five distinguished journalists selected for this honour are W.R. Wijesoma, L.E. Samararatne, Elmo Gooneratne, T.M. Murugiah and S. Pathiravitana.

Nineteen Awards and several Merit Certificates will be presented to practising journalists at this sixth consecutive awards ceremony conducted by The Guild.

Pen-sketches of the five senior journalists to receive the Long and Distinguished Service Gold Medals this year, are as follows:

Wijerupage R. Wijesoma: The senior-most political cartoonist in Sri Lanka today, Wijesoma begun his career in 1947 at the former Times of Ceylon. A well-known name today, the young Wijesoma found difficulty in securing a job as a cartoonist when he started his career. His first cartoons were offered to the Observer - they were appreciated, but he did not receive employment. He tried The Times of Ceylon thereafter, but was given the job of proof-reader instead.

The Times had the famous Collete as its cartoonist, and then another top-class cartoonist is G.S. Fernando. Then came an incident involving former Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawela who had lost his baggage while on a trip to London. The persevering Wijesoma drew Sir John covering his nakedness without his clothes, and the Editor Victor Louis promptly gave the young man a place at the Sunday Times, the weekend publication of the group.

He later went over the Irida Lankadeepa when it started under D.B. Dhanapala where he developed his trade mark 'Punchisingho' character. In 1968, he switched back to Lake House, but in 1977 he left the institution when restrictions were placed on him. Four years later he joined Upali Wijewardene's new stables of The Island-Divaina, where he still produces world-class cartoons. His cartoons have appeared in the New York Times and the World Atlas Press Review.

Lokuge Edmund Samararatne: Cutting his teeth in photography at Donalds Studio in 1945, Samararatne later joined Chitraphoto, a subsidiary of Lake House as assistant to the chief photographer, B.P. Weerawardene. Samararatne qualified as a professional photographer becoming an Associate Member of the British Institute of Professional Photography in 1955 and was absorbed into the publications of the Lake House Group shortly thereafter.

He has 'clicked' many famous Sri Lankan and world leaders, especially those who came for the Non-Aligned Summit in 1976 with his Rolleiflex camera in a career that spanned over four decades. He retired as Chief Photographer at Lake House.

Samararatne is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of the UK and Fellow of the Institute of Sri Lanka Photographers. He served on the panel of judges on behalf of the Editors Guild in their Journalism Awards for Excellence programme a few years ago.

He was awarded the 'Kala Bhushana' Award in 1998.

Gangodage Elmo Melville Christopher Gooneratne: Born in 1933, Gooneratne joined Lake House in 1955 as a cub reporter at the Sinhala evening, Janatha, the Sinhala Sunday, Silumina and the English Sunday, Sunday Observer. In 1965, Gooneratne became the News Editor of the Silumina and twice won the D.R. Wijewardene Award for Outstanding Journalism.

After a brief stint as Chief sub-editor at the Morning Express in Bangkok, Gooneratne returned to the country, and in 1977 joined the Times of Ceylon becoming the Editor of the Daily Mirror and Lankadeepa.

The Group was thereafter liquidated under the Business Undertaking Act, and Gooneratne joined Government Service becoming a Media Consultant at the Ministry of Education and later Ministry of Plan Implementation. At the Ministry of Transport, he became a Senior Assistant Secretary.

In 1966, Gooneratne reverted to the post of Media Consultant in the Ministry of Samurdhi, Youth Affairs and Rural Development and was also appointed a visiting lecturer on Newspaper management at the Sri Jayawardhanapura University to diploma and post-graduate students on Business Management in newspapers.

T.M. Murugiah: With over four decades in journalism, Murugiah was worked in twelve newspapers in the country in capacities ranging from sub-editor, news editor, foreign news editor and editor.

The newspapers he has worked for include the Suthanthiran, Thinakaran, Virakesari, Eelanadu, Dinapathi, Chintamani, Times of Ceylon and Sumathi. During his long and distinguished career, Murugiah has written on a wide array of subjects which include social and political matters, literature, philosophy and short-stories.

He was an editorial-writer at Virakesari, Dinapathi, Eelanadu and Eelamani and has been a Parliamentary Lobby Correspondent for several Tamil language newspapers. He currently resides in Badulla.

Sugathadasa Pathiravithana: Having won a literary competition held by the Sunday Observer in 1951, Pathiravithana was invited to join the newspaper. Put through the paces early in his career, he rose to become the Features Editor of the Evening Observer after some years doing a stint as re-write editor of the Jane magazine. He also contributed to the political weekly, Aththa that was under the stewardship of B.A. Siriwardene.

At Lake House, Pathiravithana was then sent to the English daily of the Group, the Ceylon Daily News as a columnist, feature and editorial writer, doing a stint at the Silumina as well.

Venturing on his own, Pathiravithana started his own Danuma, a Sinhala monthly magazine, containing articles that were translations from international magazines, the aim being to uplift the standard of education among the local language readers. He worked for the Janadina as an Assistant Editor and diarist at the time, but returned to Lake House in 1974 as an Assistant Editor, and then eventually as Editor of the Ceylon Daily News.

He then went to work at Gulf News for a while, but returned to The Island where he was Editor for a period. A selection of his writings over the years was published last year under the title Through My Asian Eyes.

He retired from active journalism in 1996.

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