The 19th and 20th editions of the Excellence in Journalism Awards will culminate with the presentation of the awards today (22), at the ‘Blue’, Colombo Hilton, a press release from the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) said.
The annual awards night for the years 2020 and 2021 had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 50 awards and certificates of merit will be awarded over the two years, under restricted health conditions and protocols.
An independent jury of media professionals and academics selected the winners from a total of 18 dailies and 18 weeklies in the three language streams – Sinhalese, Tamil and English.
The event which was first launched in 1999 by the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka (TEGOSL) is now organized by the Guild in partnership with the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI). This year’s event is held under the auspices of the SLPI Press Club with the Colombo Hilton as the host hotel. The aim of the program is to recognize professionalism in print media and to reward excellence in a given year. The Guild also awards prizes for lifetime achievement and those who defend freedom of the press.
The four recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Awards for 2019 and 2020 are Upali Fonkseka, DP Wickramasinghe, Pushpa Rowel and Saman Chandranath (SC) Weerasinghe (posthumous).
Upali Fonseka was a senior photographer at Lake House. He began his career in 1973 as a freelance photographer at the Central News Bureau. In 1977 he was confirmed and worked for Tharunee and later Sarasaviya. He was promoted to associate editor of pictures in 1995 and became associate editor (pictures) in 2000. He retired in 2010. He is an alumnus of Saint Lucia School of Kotahena.
DP Wickramasinghe, known to colleagues as “Wicky”, has joined Independent Newspapers Ltd. as a translator and worked for the Sun newspaper in the late 1960s. After its closure in 1974, he joined the UNP’s publications unit and it was there that he met Esmond Wickremesinghe, former managing director of Lake House. After the 1977 parliamentary elections, he joined the Daily News as a translator. He worked under 14 publishers starting with ED Wettasinghe. He was promoted to deputy news editor in 2000 and then deputy provincial news editor until his retirement in 2021. He studied at Richmond College in Galle and entered university as an external student before earning a Bachelor of Commerce.
Pushpa Rowel began her career in journalism in 1977 at Lake House at the Central News Bureau. In 1979, she joined Dinamina as an assistant editor. She rose through the ranks until her appointment as editor-in-chief of Dinamina in 2015. She retired at the end of 2019.
She studied at Presbyterian Girls’ School in Colombo and completed her education at Stafford Ladies College in Colombo. She passed out from Kelaniya University with a bachelor’s degree in 1972. She received the Lifetime Award from the Catholic Writers Association in 2018.
Saman Chandranath (SC) Weerasinghe was a veteran journalist who died recently. He was a highly respected journalist whose work ranged from writing news and features to the art of writing lyrics in which he specialized. As a lyricist, he composed over 1,500 songs. He started his career as a journalist at Lankadeepa. Later, he held several positions within the Dinamina. He was consultant editor of Dinamina at the time of his retirement. Late Weerasinghe is the son of late Lankadeepa editor Wimal Weerasinghe and brother of journalist and creative writer Bharathi Weerasinghe.