SRI LANKA: An Appeal to support Ravaya publication

We are forwarding this appeal made on behalf of Ravaya Publication

To All Friends,
Standing up for media freedom and independence in Sri Lanka

Dear colleagues and friends,

As you know by now, we as a group have been for the past two months campaigning to raise 20 million SL rupees (US $ 154,000 apprx.) to keep the “Ravaya” weekend Sinhala newspaper independent, the way it stayed over 25 years and, still better.

As most of you know, over the past 25 years, there were many efforts by numerous persons and organisations to serve the Sinhala readership with different and dissenting views through many newspapers, mostly tabloid, but none could survive for different reasons, other than State interventions and restrictions. Ravaya remained the only newspaper that grew into a broadsheet, starting as a tabloid and still maintains its independent identity, despite shortcomings and criticism. This gave Ravaya a large loyal readership among opinion making social activists, academics, artistes and even among politicians.

The reason for our quick intervention was to stall the proposed 40 percent buy over by Milinda Moragoda for 20 million rupees allowing him to have 02 out of the 05 members in the Ravaya Governing Board. In consequence, we have agreed, that we would initially raise 10 mn rupees (US $ 77,000 apprx.) within 03 months and thereafter raise the balance 10 mn rupees for development of Ravaya as a very modern, sustainable professional media voice and improve its capacities and facilities.

In raising the monies necessary, we have decided to make every effort to have a very broad based ownership that allows the Ravaya readership and all others who value an independent media, to be contributors in raising the 10 mn rupees. They can credit their contribution(s) as individuals or as legally organised entities. An individual can make a maximum contribution of 500,000 (five hundred thousand) rupees, starting with just one thousand rupees even, while an organisation can go up to one million rupees.

These contributions would be the capital for the new company, we, here in Sri Lanka are in the process of legally constituting as “Ravaya Solidarity Pvt. Ltd.” that would thereafter buy the 40 per cent of shares from Ravaya. This would also give Ravaya Solidarity Pvt. Ltd. to nominate 02 members to the 05 member Ravaya Governing Board. We believe this to be a path breaking initiative in print media ownership in Sri Lanka and we wish you would join us in this effort.

We already have very committed, strong pledges that give us much encouragement. We also wish you as persons who are making your concerned voices heard loud and strong on democracy, plurality and issues of much concern, would join us in completing this fund raising campaign fast and soon.

You could at your earliest convenience, credit the account number 8180047738 in Maharagama branch of the Commercial Bank.

Thanking you in advance,

Kusal Perera & Gamini Viyangoda

Our Manifesto –
Why Ravaya and What For ?

We, a collective of writers, media personnel, artistes, trade unionists and social activists as concerned citizens of Sri Lanka presently living in a world without geographical barriers, intervened in re-shaping the ownership of the “Ravaya” weekly newspaper, from around end June, this year. We made a public appeal for financial assistance for our endeavour,  considering it as a social cause to have an independent media contributing to freedom of  expression as a vital element in a democratic society.

We therefore wish to further elaborate on our collective effort and what we intend achieving with a new approach in media ownership in ensuring editorial independence and a healthy, intelligent discourse necessary for democracy and development in an inclusive society.

This therefore details how the new ownership would be designed and established, what we  define and pledge to safeguard as editorial independence and how we wish to frame media  policy for Ravaya news paper in its development era and finally, how we propose to place  Ravaya on a sustainable economic footing.

Ravaya financial status

For many years, Ravaya as a news paper has consistently maintained a break even status and has been better than “mere survival”. Its audited annual financial reports in the past two years (2011 and 2012) provide evidence of this financial stability. Ravaya therefore was not compelled to seek “extra cash” to survive in the past years.

It has its own building complex, in its own land within Maharagama Urban Council area and  runs its own in-house printing establishment.

What Ravaya lacks is the ability to infuse capital for modernisation. It is now time to replace  its 17 year old printing machine with a modern hi tech printing facility and introduce new IT networks with modern programming to meet proposed expansion and development initiatives for sustainability. This needs new investment without getting tied to private business with  strings to continue its independence and grow on it.

Designing a new ownership

Print and electronic media ownership in Sri Lanka is either State or privately owned. The political culture that also decides economic policy and approves business contracts at present is as such that no business venture could exist without state patronage. Most owners of major private media companies have thus moved in as direct stakeholders of the ruling coalition, reducing the independent presence of capital and investments. Privately owned media in Sri Lanka is in the grips of such business. Therefore, being in private hands does not necessarily make private media free to wield editorial independence for the benefit of the reader or  viewer/listener. Furthermore, the present government had intervened in gaining substantial control of many private media businesses through proxy investors. The government has  gained access in deciding editorial policy where and when necessary with such infusion of “State patronised” capital.

“Ravaya” news paper ownership from its very beginning was differently established as a Guaranteed company with 51 per cent of its controlling shares left with its founding editor and the balance 49 per cent given to its employees, including journalists. Therefore the  Ravaya editorial was able to maintain a degree of independence, other media could not have. It also showed aggressiveness in how it covered news and investigated issues, creating an identity of its own, with a fairly large readership loyalty.

The new initiative, a novel approach with the consent of the present Ravaya ownership, will be establishing a legally constituted company, “Ravaya Solidarity Company Ltd.”  under the Companies Act of 2007 that will be owned by all who contributed, responding to the public appeal made to that effect. After it is legally constituted, Ravaya Solidarity Company Ltd will buy 40 per cent of the shares presently held by the founding editor, reducing his stakes to 11 per cent. The new ownership ratio would thus become, 11 percent with founding editor, 40 percent with Ravaya Solidarity Company Ltd and 49 per cent with employees and journalists.

Ravaya Solidarity Company Ltd will have two (02) positions in the five (05) member director board of Ravaya Publishers, thus making the ownership of Ravaya news paper, the first in Sri Lanka to be partly owned by citizens and partly owned by employees including journalists.

Ravaya Solidarity Company Limited will have its own and independent governance structures by way a Board of Directors elected by the initial subscribers to the company and Annual General Meeting and other structures stipulated under the Companies Act of 2007. The Board of Ravaya Solidarity Company Limited will have its own deliberations and the decisions will be conveyed to Ravaya Publishers (Guarantee) Limited through its two directors.

The Media policy

We are committed to work towards a democratic, pluralistic and a secular society that respects human rights, workers’ rights and all democratic rights that could ensure a decent, peaceful and a law abiding society. We believe in equality in society and equal opportunities for all irrespective of class, caste, gender, ethnicity, religion and language differences.

We also accept the public has a right to know and without fruitful enjoyment of that right the public cannot make informed decisions. Our aspirations for future Sri Lanka with the right to information the citizens should enjoy included, would form the frame work for media policy and in establishing a Code of Media Ethics for Ravaya.

Ravaya news paper stood for all these social values to the extent it could, through its 26 year history and was therefore accepted as an independent and progressive voice among the more conscious and articulate readership. In fact Ravaya remained the only news paper that survived on such readership loyalty.

We would therefore strive to improve the professional capacity of the editorial of Ravaya to further the cause of equality and equal opportunities through intellectual discourses on politics, economics, art, literature and culture, science and technology, sports and rational thinking, while also taking up issues current, in governance.

Editorial independence

We have a firm commitment to maintain editorial independence of Ravaya. This commitment will be written into the memorandum of articles that would incorporate the new company, Ravaya Solidarity Company Ltd. We propose to guarantee editorial independence, based on the following fundamental tenets in media.


Professional journalists should operate as trustees of the public, seek the truth, report it fairly and with integrity and independence and stand accountable for their actions.

Public Trust: Professional journalists should recognize that their first obligation is to the public.

Professional journalists should:

  • Understand that any commitment other than service to the public undermines trust and credibility.
  • Recognize that service in the public interest creates an obligation to reflect the diversity of the community and guard against oversimplification of issues or events.
  • Provide a full range of information to enable the public to make enlightened decisions.
  • Fight to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public.

Truth : Professional journalists should pursue truth aggressively and present the news accurately, in context, and as completely as possible.

Professional journalists should:

  • Continuously seek the truth.
  • Resist distortions that obscure the importance of events.
  • Clearly disclose the origin of information and label all material provided by outsiders.

Professional journalists should not:

  • Report anything known to be false.
  • Manipulate images or sounds in any way that is misleading.
  • Plagiarize.
  • Present images or sounds that are re enacted without informing the public.

Fairness : Professional journalists should present the news fairly and impartially, placing primary value on significance and relevance.
Professional journalists should:

  • Treat all subjects of news coverage with respect and dignity, showing particular compassion to victims of crime or tragedy.
  • Exercise special care when children are involved in a story and give children greater privacy protection than adults.
  • Seek to understand the diversity of their community and inform the public without bias or stereotype.
  • Present a diversity of expressions, opinions and ideas in context.
  • Present analytical reporting based on professional perspective, not personal bias.
  • Respect the right to a fair trial.

Integrity : Professional journalists should present the news with integrity and decency, avoiding real or perceived conflicts of interest, and respect the dignity and intelligence of the audience as well as the subjects of news.
Professional journalists should:

  • Identify sources whenever possible. Confidential sources should be used only when it is clearly in the public interest to gather or convey important information or when a person providing information might be harmed. Journalists should keep all commitments to protect a confidential source.
  • Clearly label opinion and commentary.
  • Guard against extended coverage of events or individuals that fails to significantly advance a story, place the event in context, or add to the public knowledge.
  • Refrain from contacting participants in violent situations while the situation is in progress.
  • Use technological tools with skill and thoughtfulness, avoiding techniques that skew facts, distort reality, or sensationalize events.
  • Use surreptitious news gathering techniques, including hidden cameras or microphones, only if there is no other way to obtain stories of significant public importance and only if the technique is explained to the audience.
  • Disseminate the private transmissions of other news organizations only with permission.

Professional journalists should not:

  • Pay news sources who have a vested interest in a story.
  • Accept gifts, favours, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
  • Engage in activities that may compromise their integrity or independence.

Independence : Professional journalists should defend the independence of all journalists from those seeking influence or control over news content.
Professional journalists should:

  • Gather and report news without fear or favour, and vigorously resist undue influence from any outside forces, including advertisers, sources, story subjects, powerful individuals, and special interest groups.
  • Resist those who would seek to buy or politically influence news content or who would seek to intimidate those who gather and disseminate the news.
  • Determine news content solely through editorial judgement and not as the result of outside influence.
  • Resist any self-interest or peer pressure that might erode journalistic duty and service to the public.
  • Recognize that sponsorship of the news will not be used in any way to determine, restrict, or manipulate content.
  • Refuse to allow the interests of ownership or management to influence news judgement and content inappropriately.
  • Defend the rights of the free press for all journalists, recognizing that any professional or government licensing of journalists is a violation of that freedom.

Accountability : Professional journalists should recognize that they are accountable for their actions to the public, the profession, and themselves.
Professional journalists should:

  • Actively encourage adherence to these standards by all journalists and their employers.
  • Respond to public concerns. Investigate complaints and correct errors promptly and with as much prominence as the original report.
  • Explain journalistic processes to the public, especially when practices spark questions or controversy.
  • Recognize that professional journalists are duty-bound to conduct themselves ethically.
  • Refrain from ordering or encouraging courses of action that would force employees to commit an unethical act.
  • Carefully listen to employees who raise ethical objections and create environments in which such objections and discussions are encouraged.
  • Seek support for and provide opportunities to train employees in ethical decision-making.

Improvements and sustainability

Ravaya has immense potential for improvement and expansion that could sustain it for the future as a financially sound commercial publisher.

To achieve such growth and sustainability, Ravaya needs to improve on its content with more and varied themes retaining its standard of intellectual dialogue. There are thematic areas like science and technology, current international events with special attention given to South Asian politics and economics that Ravaya can immediately introduce to the more articulate reader. Make Ravaya a complete week end news and features Sinhala broadsheet for the household that wants good reading material for social dialogue.

Ravaya also needs competent and professional expertise to improve

  1. its overall management with professional inputs
  2. its distribution and circulation with new incentive schemes and go beyond
  3. its editorial skills and knowledge in specialised areas and regular exposures for updating of information and knowledge
  4. positioning of Ravaya as a Sinhala broadsheet with an independent and vibrant editorial policy that caters to a readership worth advertising in.

These key areas are being looked into by Ravaya Solidarity Company Ltd, for improvement and the publishing capacity has already been taken care of, with a possible introduction of new printing and computer facilities.

Ravaya may not be the right place for those who wish to have only profits in rupee terms. But Ravaya will be a profitable venture for those wish to calculate investment opportunities in terms of both rupees and social responsibility.

Ravaya Solidarity
03 August, 2013