Thursday, September 03, 2009

“To teach is to learn twice”

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

As per Joseph Joubert- French Moralist and Essayist’s quote To teach is to learn twice”, it was another new and energising experience for me to train a bunch of budding journalists from the Eastern part of Sri Lanka. I was motivated as the demand was high, and I had to deliver.

There were 15 journalists including two females. They were from Batticaloa and Ampara districts. It was encouraging to see that all of them were keen to learn, and willing to make a difference in their journalistic work. They showered their interest to be more responsible while they report stories. There was a collective spirit to learn and make a change.

“Doing Ethics” a training session was conducted for the young journalists, which was held from June 27th-June 29th 2009 at Monty Guest House in Ampara. It was conducted by Sri Lanka Press Institute and INTERNEWS Network in Sinhala and Tamil languages. The aim of the training was to encourage journalists to be ethical in the stories which they cover, and to be aware of ethical issues related to their career . The training session consisted of elements of ethics- Truth and Accuracy, Fairness, Minimising Harm, Independency, and Accountability, importance of sources, and role plays. The group was a blend of print and electronic media.

According to a survey which was conducted in 2004 by the International Federation of Journalists, half of the journalists in Sri Lanka have the knowledge in ethics, while 11% of them have the copies of Code of Ethics. And only half of them have got training in ethics.

50% of the journalists use only one source for their stories, while 80% of the journalists think that their source is not accurate. On the other hand, Sinhala and Tamil newspapers use only selected source for the stories. There are no current figures available after 2004 survey.

Surprisingly, only one journalist had a copy of the Code of Ethics, which he showed me from his wallet, when I asked the group whether any of them had seen the Code of Ethics and had a copy for them. A pocket size Code of ethics was printed in English, Sinhala and Tamil and distributed to the journalists in Sri Lanka by the International Federation of Journalists.

Similar training session was conducted in Ampara last year in June for the working journalists. The participants of last year’s training session have been working as journalists for more than five years. But none of them has got the training in ethics. A few senior journalists pointed out during my conversation with them that “we have been working as journalists for forty years, but this is the first time that we are being trained in ethics”.

I hope more and more journalists will be trained in ethics to perform their duty better.