Kumar Nadesan’s Keynote Address at the SLCJ’s Awards Ceremony


Diplomas were awarded by the Sri Lanka College of Journalism to 60 successful candidates of the SLCJ’s 2011 course, thus sending out that many new entrants to the fields of print, radio and electronic media. The ceremony was held on Thursday at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute with Her Excellency Hilde Haraldstad, Ambassador of Norway to Sri Lanka, as chief guest.

The keynote address was delivered by Mr Kumar Nadesan, Managing Director, Express Newspapers and Chairman of the Board of Directors the Sri Lanka Press Institute. His address was noteworthy and directed most at the passing-out students who, he and Her Excellency too noted, were going into the arena of media at a difficult time.

Mr Nadesan reminded the students that "the core purpose of the College is to enrich the profession of journalism, to bring to journalism the enthusiasm, dynamism, passion and idealism of young people who would continue to carry the responsibility of the Fourth Estate." He also reminded the audience that it was Thomas Carlyle who documented the term ‘Fourth Estate’ to mean the Press in 1841, the term having been coined by philosopher Edmund Burke in Parliament. To him the clergy was the First Estate, the nobles and law makers the Second, the public the Third, and looking at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons, Burke pointed to them as the Fourth Estate, adding that they were the most important.

Mr Nadesan traced briefly the history of Press Freedom and Responsibility in Sri Lanka referring to an international symposium held in 1998, which also helped launch the College of Journalism. He advised the young men and women going into the Fourth Estate that "even in the face of resistance, a journalist must maintain the integrity and courage to uphold truth... Your business then will be to create an intelligent and knowledgeable citizenry. It is especially important today when journalists are under fire, with the freedom of the press challenged. Even more so when citizens still do not have the right to information. You have the task of keeping the Nation’s conscience."

Defining who a journalist is, he said: "A journalist is one who, simply put, gathers news and provides information about current events, trends, and issues for the public from a view point that is not biased. In balance with that, a journalist must also continue to uphold a moral standard of ethics, one of truth and responsibility."

He continued: "You now have the tools at hand to tell stories you want to tell in the ways you want to tell them and to many more people than was ever possible before. You now have the tools in the fight to find and share truth, advancing the goals of journalism and our society in general."

He very aptly quoted President Obama from his victory speech in Chicago: "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth but from the enduring power of our ideals, democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope." That, Mr Nadesan said, highlights the importance of the fourth estate, the press.

He added: "The quality of a democratic society is jointly determined by its legal and constitution framework, by the energy and public spirit of its citizens, and by the quality of its education and public discourse, and especially the education and discourse of journalism."

To end his inspiring address before he wished the students well, he quoted Reverence B B Edmonds: "To dream anything that you want to dream. That is the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed."

This address was not only inspirational to the students who listened in pin drop silence, but to others in the well packed hall. (NPW)

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