Media Ethics in Sri Lanka Questioned

by Zulkifli Nazim

Media is called the watchdog of democracy because it keeps the government active and public involved. Media is assigned this specific name as watchdog of democracy because it keeps its eye on the work of government and raise awareness between public that is the reason they are referred to as “watchdog”.

Very regrettably, today’s “news” presentations by the media has been seen by many as arbitrary constructions, cleverly designed to achieve political interests. There are many examples to point to how media was instrumental in inciting and injecting hatred among people, violence and manipulating for an ethnic upheaval, violent disturbance and disorder.

This is an important reminder on how this type of evil political propaganda can cause damage to society.

These contemptible slime-ball media were hunting and interviewing those scumbags, low-life rotters, whose pieces and reports were simply spectacular lies, intended to incite hatred and violence and who, in their reports, pointed their filthy fingers at individuals, local groups of people and political parties who were not willing to run with them.

Although there is no doubt that the media really did play the key and dirtiest roles in these recent conflicts, they were only instruments of politics. There is no doubt that this real responsibility belongs to the greedy and power hungry politicians. The country experienced, on the 26th of October 2018, how the criminals nurtured by the President and the illegally appointed Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, invaded the state media and held them hostage while both President Maithripala and Mahinda Rajapaksa, kept absolutely silent.  Nary a word did they utter.

After that, it was bedlam – every State Media was in a state of extreme confusion and utter disorder.

Continuing in the same tone, everything the media indulges in today is a farce. In a licentious and grotesque manner they are exposing their distorted immoral discipline and ludicrously exhibiting a mere false facade concealing a deep and implacable personal feud through which they seek to have vengeance.

Stories of conspiracy theories, fill the television screens, all proven by fake testimonies and online videos; always labeling their opponents, puppets of a foreign conspiracy and pawns of Western powers, became the mainstay of Maithripala- Mahinda propaganda.

In fact, one thing that we have noticed is that all of these conspiracy theories depend on the perpetrators thinking that they are being endlessly clever. It is all about our society believing anything you tell them; and you the media, assume everyone is endlessly stupid.” 

We would like to tell the media : “That is your biggest mistake.”

Broadcasting, televising and printing the unmistakeable scream of “foreign conspiracy” supporting the joint opposition is a narrative which is not simply a denial of facts — it’s a deliberate political strategy with specific goals.

First and foremost they are propagating disobedience and dissent. They try to mimic dictators always calling itthe work of a foreign agency whose ultimate goal is to impose Western values and destabilize the country. 

They are trying to embed securely into the hearts and minds of these people that these foreign agents bribe impressionable and otherwise loyal citizens to execute their dirty work, turning them into puppets susceptible to manipulation and seduced by the promise of wealth, name, fame, position and power. 

These are the distortions what the local media are trying to hammer firmly into the hearts and minds of the unsuspecting people.

This has the function of painting the United National Front government, focusing on the United National Party, as inherently unpatriotic. This creates a distance between the existing government and the larger population by slandering dissenters as extremists, even as terrorists, that share nothing in common with ordinary people.

Such tactics condition people to distrust democratic action — or any kind of activism at all — creating an apathetic and cynical society, making the masses to believe in the worst of human nature and motives; and propagating a sneering disbelief in which corrupt authoritarians and tyrants thrive.

By blaming any and all dissent on foreigners, the Joint Opposition tries to convince the people, in an arrogant manner, that no one has any right to question its actions.

Furthermore, inventing a foreign adversary distracts people from domestic issues, further casting doubts on the regime’s stability. After all, the threat of a foreign invasion is much more frightening than high unemployment or corruption.  A diversionary tactic employed by the black media.

Some media are in dire need of self-examination. We believe that propaganda is yet another ugly scar on the face of modern journalism. There is a need to cleanse journalism of fear, propaganda and routine frustration. In the absence of critical journalism, democracy suffers and deliberate misinformation becomes the norm – A pattern regarded as typical.

In order to raise the awareness to the dangers of this uncontrolled proliferation of propaganda, the people of this country must be made known, that propaganda is dangerous when it distorts pluralism where diversity of racial, religious, ethnic and cultural groups is tolerated.

We would also issue a warning to Mr. Maithripala Sirisena to refrain from antagonizing the public by him manipulating Governmental authorities  to promote wrongly concocted news and banning and blocking radio and television signals; at the same time imposing other restrictions, such as ban on entry for journalists and their eviction from governmental press centers and public functions.

It should be made very clear that censoring by the President of this country for the sake of political expediency is not a democratic tool to counter information.

At all times, and especially in difficult times, blocking and harassing certain media who are reporting facts, is not an answer because it leads to arbitrary and politically motivated actions. Limits on media freedom for the sake of political expediency means subtle censorship by the president and, when begun, censorship never stops.

The media too should realize that when propaganda, when it is pervasive, massive and systematic, it is undoubtedly detrimental to the freedom of the media. This phenomenon destroys the core of the profession of journalism. It makes journalists hostages of the presidential power of some sort, and thus, hitting at the independence of the media.

Journalists are forced or bribed to be a mere conduit of the messages. If dominant in a given country, propaganda becomes an instrument to establish authoritarianism, thus, distorting not just pluralism of the media but other basic foundations of a democracy. Meanwhile, it affects the public trust in the free media, in the values and the meaning of the profession.

What the media is now indulging by their excesses, is that they are digging their own graves.

We have had enough of the lies, the sanctimony, the arrogance, the hatred, the pettiness and their disgusting fake news,

To maintain objectivity in journalism, journalists should present the facts whether or not they like or agree with those facts. Objective reporting is meant to portray issues and events in a neutral and unbiased manner, regardless of the writers’ opinions or personal beliefs.

We believe that in the modern world with new technologies and millions becoming involved in journalism through social networks, the weight of ensuring the ethics of the profession should be on the shoulders of editors and other gatekeepers of the news.

I call on editors and publishers; I call on governmental authorities wherever they own media outlets directly or by proxy, to stop corrupting the profession and to stop gaining influence on blood, hate speech and narrow-mindedness.Z


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