A statement by the five leading media organisations and journalist trade unions in Sri Lanka carried in the Daily Mirror today is the first expression in the history of journalism in Sri Lanka that bloggers are defined as being inextricably part of the media community.
In reply to the Media Minister’s statement five media organisations comprising the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Federation, the Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists’ Association and the Free Media Movement said: “According to the views of a democratic society all those in print and electronic media as well as those who are professionally engaged in collecting information and distributing it to the public are considered journalists. Even those who maintain political and social blogs are considered journalists.”
The statement was issued in response to the Sri Lankan Media Minister’s denial of the contents of a report by the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) that ranked Sri Lanka as the third most dangerous place in the world for journalists.
A related article by Free Media Movement (FMM) spokesperson Sunanda Deshapriya (in Sinhala) explores this issue further, where he notes that:
“ïn saying that the only journalists the Minister recognises are those with ID cards issued by the Media Ministry, the Government of Sri Lanka conveniently ignores the vital social and political critques of bloggers in Sri Lanka. From Myanmar to China to Iraq, the world today gets news and information through bloggers.”
But it is not just the Government in Sri Lanka that does not understand the emergent power of bloggers. The behaviour of some traditional media in Sri Lanka towards bloggers earlier this year, and one Editor’s incredible response to this author’s efforts to point out the traditional media’s responsibility to treat bloggers in the same manner as other media sources, demonstrate that blogs clearly pose an irksome challenge to old school journalists as much as repressive governments.