Professor, Journalist receive AMIC Asia Communication Awards

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 7 2021
Focus Professor, Journalist receive AMIC Asia Communication Awards

A scholar/professor of Asian culture and communication from Sri Lanka and the U.S. and a journalist/civic engagement advocate in Bhutan received the 2020 and 2021 AMIC Asia Communication Awards on Saturday (4) at the culmination of the virtual 28th AMIC Annual Conference and 50th founding anniversary of the organisation, said Ramon Tuazon, AMIC Secretary General.

The awardees were Prof. Wimal Dissanayake and Dasho (Sir) Dorji Kinley.

Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) is the non-governmental organisation dedicated to Media development in Asia and the Pacific. Its members and affiliates have published the rich trove of research studies on journalism and communication in the region in the last 50 years.

Prof. Wimal Dissanayake (B.A. University of Ceylon, M.A. University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D. Cambridge University)  is a leading scholar of Asian cinema and Asian communication theory. He received the 2021 AMIC Asia Communication Award for Disruptive Inquiry.

A critic of the wholesale adoption of Western – produced communication theory, research and methods, Dissanayake devoted his career not only to creative writing but also to finding and articulating the Asian perspective and sensibility in communication studies – in collaboration with other Asian scholars.

Dissanayake is recognised for his great contribution in providing a conceptual link between Asian communication and culture.  He accomplished this by studying classical Asian teachings, cultural traditions and belief systems, customs, oral and written texts – in order to understand their impact and influence on the communication culture of Asia – the patterns, ways and behaviour that go into both verbal and non-verbal expressions of Asian sensibility and social interaction.

Dissanayake said, “If communication is to become a more consequential field of endeavour, it is important that we establish contacts with indigenous roots, situated knowledge and local forms of knowledge. Therefore, the imperative need to focus on Asian theories, methods, and concepts of communication becomes more urgent and compelling.”

He shares his reflections in his numerous books, including Communication Theory The Asian Perspective (Editor, 1988, 2021), Continuity and Change in Communication Systems (1984), The Role of News Media in National and International Conflict (1984). 

He has also been awarded an honorary D.Litt. for his scholarly work. He has written a large number of books on cinema and cultural theory which have been published by Oxford, Cambridge, Duke, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois University Presses and Routledge Publishers and Penguin.

 His notable works include: Ashes of Time (2003), Sholay, A Cultural Reading (1992), Self and Colonial Desire: Travel Writing of V.S. Naipal (1993), Raj Kapoor’s Films: Harmony of Discourses (1988). He is the Founding Editor of the East-West Film Journal and former Director of the Cultural Studies Programme jointly sponsored by the University of Hawai’i and the East-West Center. 

Dissanayake is also one of the leading poets in Sri Lanka who has published eight volumes of poetry in his mother tongue Sinhalese, and has won numerous awards for his poetry. In 2012 he was given the highest lifetime award granted by the Government of Sri Lanka.

He is also the recipient of the Lifetime Award conferred by the Sri Lanka Foundation in Los Angeles. He also serves as an Editorial Advisor to a large number of prestigious international academic journals dealing with cinema, communication, and cultural theory, as well as the International Encyclopedia of Communication. He has been invited as the keynote speaker at conferences held in countries and territories such as Germany, Canada, United States, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

Dasho (Sir) Dorji Kinley received the 2020 AMIC Asia Communication Award for Transformative Leadership. He is the first formally trained journalist in Bhutan, having been sent by the Fourth King to study in Australia, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication degree from Charles Sturt University. He also earned a Master of Journalism degree from Columbia University in the U.S., and then was awarded the prestigious John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University for his work in Media development in developing democracies.

Upon his return from formal studies, Dasho Kinley Dorji introduced modern Media into Bhutan, using them as platforms for wider citizen participation in the country’s move into democracy, while bringing new thinking on the role of Media in society to the international academic community.

Kinley converted the government newsletter Kuensel into the country’s first newspaper. This was a significant challenge in a small, oral culture, where reading was considered work, among the tasks civil service employees were paid to do. 

Over the next two decades Kinley trained journalists to work alongside him, increased publication of Kuensel to twice-weekly editions in two languages (English and Dzongkha), and widened the distribution of the paper across the country. He wrote editorials, encouraging critical reflection about Bhutanese society. They became a must-read among the educated and the political class.

He wrote in one of his editorials: “All of us who professionally use the Media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarise that society. We can brutalise it. Or we can help lift it to a higher level.”

Dasho Kinley’s belief that Media should serve to elevate society reflected Bhutan’s renowned philosophy of Gross National Happiness. He developed Bhutan’s Media space according to those principles.

“Media must help society to understand change and, in the process, define and promote the right values, including public values… we are responsible for culture, happiness, liberty, spirituality, even survival of society,” he wrote in a paper for an international conference.

Dasho Kinley was a valuable voice in his country’s development. Kuensel was a platform for national discourse on Bhutan's Constitution which was ratified in 2008. The Bhutanese Constitution enshrines freedom of the press, freedom of Media and citizens’ rights to information.

In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Red Scarf and given the title of Dasho by His Majesty the Fourth King.

In 2009, after 29 years at Kuensel, Dasho Kinley assumed the role of Secretary to the Ministry of Information and Communications, advising government on Media and communications policy. He also published Bhutan’s first book of Creative Non-Fiction, Within the Realm of Happiness, reflecting on life in Bhutan. 

Now retired, Dasho Kinley maintains many roles in the community, including editor-in-chief of Druk Journal, a journal of thoughts and ideas. Through regular publications, an interactive website, and open discussions after each edition, Dasho Kinley engages different sections of Bhutanese society in conversations, so that all citizens can exchange open and frank views on national policies and issues relevant to Bhutan.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 7 2021

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