Right to Information / Awards for 10 journalists in North | Sunday Observer

Right to Information / Awards for 10 journalists in North

A journalist receives an award from Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan

Ten journalists in the Northern Province have been recognised for their commitment in using the Right to Information (RTI) for public interest journalism.

They were chosen from among 19 journalists who submitted 59 media stories published or broadcast between September 2018 and January 2019. These entries were evaluated by an independent panel of judges.

Kumarasamy Selvakumar, a web journalist based in Karaveddy, Jaffna District, who reports for the Thinakaran newspaper, won the first place.

Arumaiththurai Jaseekaran, a web journalist from Kondavil, Jaffna District, who works for Vakeesam.com, a news and current affairs website, was placed second. Kanapathipillai Kumanan, the Mullaitivu correspondent for the Virakesari newspaper, came third.

They received their certificates and plaques from Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan at an awards ceremony in Jaffna recently. These journalists will visit India shortly to learn how RTI is being used by journalists and civil society activists. Presenting the awards, Dr Raghavan commended the journalists’ efforts to use RTI but urged them to remember their right to responsibility when reporting. He also pledged to proactively disclose, through official websites, all information related to development projects of the Northern Provincial Council.

The award ceremony marked the culmination of a six-month-long capacity building activity by the Jaffna Press Club (JPC) in partnership with International Media Support (IMS) – both non-profit entities committed to improving the quality of journalism. Thirty journalists including included six women in the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu were trained in using RTI for journalism under the program. They were subsequently mentored for 18 weeks while they filed RTI applications and pursued stories of their choice which appeared in their respective media outlets.

Digital media outlets, particularly, online news portals, have provided more space for the resulting stories. Some stories also appeared in newspapers or on television. Story topics ranged from investigating how local government bodies manage public funds and award tenders, to unravelling the disbursement of state lands and subsidies.

“We evaluated these media stories under several criteria, such as, the effective use of RTI in the story, good investigative skills, adherence to basic media ethics and the overall quality of reporting and the visual appeal in presentation,” said Dr S Raguram, senior lecturer in media studies, University of Jaffna, who headed the judging panel.

The other members of the judging panel were Shanmugaraja Yogaratnam, a senior journalist who worked as chief editor of two Tamil dailies with more than 40 years of professional experience, and Ms Kiruthiga Tharumarajah, formerly an assistant lecturer in media studies at the University of Jaffna.

Thayaparan Ratnam, JPC Coordinator, said: “We hope that our journalists continue to use the knowledge and skills gathered through this training for the benefit of citizens in the North who are still recovering from their suffering due to the civil war. We expect more proactive disclosure of public information by the Government in the future, so that the vision of RTI can be fully realised.”

Asia Advisor of IMS Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya highlighted the need to stay engaged with the trained journalists. Lawyer and RTI trainer K Aingkaran moderated a session where trained journalists shared their experiences in submitting RTI applications and obtaining information from various public authorities.