COLOMBO, June 6, 2013–The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka today launched the country’s first Catholic internet radio station in Colombo, aimed at providing a platform for young people and for those who are unable to attend Mass.
Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, president of the bishops’ conference, presided over the launch ceremony at the National Catholic Social Communication Center in the capital.
The web radio station, which will broadcast three hours of Church-centered content seven days a week, will feature mostly Sinhalese-language programming.
Father Benedict Joseph, national director of the Catholic Social Communication Center, said the web radio station afforded the Church a new opportunity to reach the country’s minority Catholic community.
“The internet encourages new forms of journalism such as blogs, Twitter, RSS Youtube and Facebook, which are interactive and immediate for those who don’t regularly attend Church,” he said.
“It’s a new broadcasting opportunity to be able to share the gospel, Catholic values and address pressing social issues. Social media has touched the life of the people today and it allows new forms of audience participation,” he said.
“Our goal is to improve believers’ lives by deepening faith,” he added.
While programming will largely focus on general issues regarding the Church, the station also aims to address broader social issues.
“I hope the radio station will help encourage people to build up a just society and that it will enhance the lives of people,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith at the launch ceremony.
Sri Lanka has more than 40 radio stations, including web radio programming.
Hudson Samarasinghe, chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, lauded the new station as an important contribution to the communications sector in the country.
Marcus Fernando, a Catholic journalist, said he hoped the new station would help set an example for professional and impartial reporting.
Sri Lanka has faced widespread criticism for its poor record on press freedom during and in the years following the civil war, which ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels.
The media watchdog group Freedom House last year gave Sri Lanka a press freedom rating of “not free” and a ranking of 161, along with Burundi and the United Arab Emirates, out of 197 nations.
Local and international rights groups have also cited intimidation of journalists and strict government controls on media programming.
Nineteen journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka since 1992, according to New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. (UCAN)