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* U.S. expands scholarship program for young journalists in Sri Lanka
Fri, Mar 5, 2010, 08:57 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 05, Colombo: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is expanding its scholarship program to bring Sri Lanka's youth to study journalism at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism.

U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission in Colombo Ms. Valerie Fowler made the announcement at the Sri Lanka Press Institute Diploma Program graduation ceremony recently, a press release issued by the Embassy said.

This year USAID is providing scholarships for 26 students, 12 students from the Eastern Province and 14 from the Northern Province, representing Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim communities to attend the one-year Journalism Diploma Program.

Addressing the graduates, Ms. Fowler said, as journalists, they are duty-bound to be defenders of democratic rights and values.

"In the modern era, the press has played a critical role as one of the pillars of democracy. Apart from the traditional three bodies of government in a democracy - legislative, judicial, and executive - the media has acted as a kind of fourth branch, helping to ensure the traditional arms of the government remain honest and serve the people. Because the media serves as a purveyor of the truth and a watchdog of the public interest, media protects and promotes our democratic rights and values. Media demands that our leaders operate in an environment of transparency and fairness. If not, the media is there to tell the truth and expose injustices, all for the sake of preserving and protecting our rights. This is true in any democratic country," she said.

The Program focuses on radio, television, or print media. Courses are conducted in Sinhala, Tamil, and English, and all students receive English language instruction.

As a condition of the scholarship, USAID scholarship recipients will return to their home districts or provinces to work as journalists after receiving their diplomas.

In 2009, USAID provided scholarships for 14 students from the Eastern Province and two students from Monaragala District in Uva Province.

U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Valerie Fowler (left) presents a diploma to K. Mala of Batticaloa District, one of 16 graduates who received a USAID scholarship to attend the one-year journalism program.

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