Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that he did not believe that the governments should control media. However, media should ensure ethical standards, he said while addressing the gathering at the felicitation of Mr. Kumar Nadesan for conferring Pravasi Bharatiya award - the highest recognition given to a non-Indian by the Government of India.
Folowing are the excerpts from the speech of the Prime Minister;
I am delighted to be present at this occasion when we felicitate a Son of Sri Lanka, who has been awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Overseas Indian Honour).
It has been conferred on our good friend Kumar Nadesan by no lesser person than Indian President Her Excellency Droupadi Murmu herself.
Pra-Vasi describes as a citizen living abroad. Pravasi Bharatiya is an expatriate Bharatiya. Bharat is not something unfamiliar to the people in our subcontinent. Bharat originates from the Sanskrit word "Bharata". Bharat was one of India’s famous emperors, the son of Dushyant and Shakuntala.
Pravasi Bharatiya Award is conferred for outstanding contribution for several services from better understanding India to social and humanitarian causes and Eminence in one’s field or outstanding work.
When I read the list of services, I found our Sri Lankan recipient of this award this year, Mr Kumar Nadesan could be credited with most of those contributions or services.
His silent service in the campaign to eradicate drug menace when he was president of the Sri Lanka Anti-Narcotics Association is tremendous.
Worthiness of giving this prestigious award to Mr. Nadesan become all the more clear when one reads the award criteria which says, the award is conferred on those who work for Better understanding of India and for Social and humanitarian causes in India or abroad.
I remember Mr Kumar Nadesan, while introducing me to the audience at Sri Lanka - India Society last year, mentioned about the political achievements of my father and mother and expressed confidence that I would attain higher position in the political hierarchy. Then I was a minister and now the Prime Minister. I wonder whether Mr Nadesan has forecasting skills in addition to the qualities listed before his name.
Mr. Kumar Nadesan is doing a yeomen service as Chairman of the Sri Lanka Press Institute and represents the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka. In addition, he serves as a Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka. His services to enhance professionalism in Sri Lankan media is highly praiseworthy.
Mr Nadesan now heads Virakesari, one of the leading Tamil daily newspapers in Sri Lanka. Founded on August 6, 1930, it is the oldest and the largest circulated Tamil Newspaper in Sri Lanka. Virakesari is owned by Express Newspapers Limited, a leading print and web media organization in Sri Lanka.
Today there is much talk about social media and its lack of ethics and professionalism. I do not believe the governments should control media. However, media should ensure ethical standards. Yesterday, I met a group of South Asian media personalities who attended Regional Conference on Fake News, Dis-Information and Propaganda in International Relations in Colombo. These media experts of the region were unanimous in their opinion that that fake news and disinformation cause havoc in the society. They said it is the responsibility of media to educate people how to recognize false news stories. People should be curious and actively investigate what you read and hear. To verify the authenticity of news, they can use news sources that are accountable for their content and follow journalistic ethics and standards. They must also take care to verify the news before sharing news content with others on social media. Media, while providing information to the people, has a responsibility to educate them to identify and reject fake news. It is a part of their social responsibilities of media.
The prestige of Pravasi Bharatiya Samman can be gauged from the list of its early recipients that include late Mauritius Prime Minister Anirud Jagnaut, former Singapore President S R Nathan, and former Commonwealth Secretary General Sridath Ramphal.
When Her Excellency the President Murmu awarded Mr. Nadesan at a special convention, the keynote address was delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi the leader of not only our friend and neighbor Bharath Desh, but also the current chair of the top global group G20.
This August Forum, India Sri Lanka Society is doing a yeomen service to foster friendship and cooperation between our two countries – two nations totally committed to democracy and adult franchise – India being the world’s biggest democracy and Sri Lanka with a proud record of universal franchise for 90 years.
Thank you Mr Nadesan, for your relentless efforts to enhance relations between our two nations and congratulations once again for bringing prestige to the country as a Sri Lanka puthra. The Prime Minster concluded.