Catering to true national needs via the Centre for Media Development

| by  Chandrapala Liyanage

( March 30, 2012,  Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The challenges Sri Lanka has to face in its march towards development are manifold. Although the war has ended the wrong political ideologies, proposals, and timetables it created are still in operation. Similarly, various social activity groups and individuals and organizations operating under the advice of local and foreign parties are continuing to exert pressure on the country.
It takes various forms in different parts of the country and internationally. However, the government is successfully facing these challenges and moving forward making the required reconstruction and restructuring within the country.
Many international political specialists tried to divide and rule Sri Lanka. With the defeat of such attempts obstructions are being posed to our march forward as a country, which is not surprising.
Our society has clearly identified the international influence and pressure exerted on our country before and after independence in various guises.
Political stability
The way we are facing up to these pressures as a nation is most praiseworthy though a little questionable.

Centre for Media Development
Sri Lanka has been gaining stability in economic, social, cultural and political spheres during the last five years. The main reason for this is the ending of the 30 year war and the building of political stability in the country.
We have started a journey towards progress as a country and nation. The government has introduced a common programme called ‘Mahinda Chintana’.
Its results are fast integrating into society. Social development paid attention to several angles and resultantly a programme called Mahinda Chintana Idiri Dekma (forward vision) in now being implemented.
As a result, Sri Lanka came to be called the ‘Wonder of Asia’. Although Sri Lanka is the most war-battered country in the world, it has now turned a leaf as a country of political stability alongside other countries in the world, mainly due to the leadership of the President.
Massive development schemes are underway in the economic sector with ports, airports, Expressways, irrigation and electricity schemes on line and progress in communication and IT.
Widening job opportunities to eradicate youth frustration and creating a healthy society is a big challenge. An accelerated march has been launched towards achieving self-sufficiency in food to prevent the vast outflow of foreign exchange reserves.
Infrastructure facilities are being developed to facilitate an expansion of the tourism industry. Our challenge is to bring more development to the Education, Technology, Research, Infrastructure facilities, Communication, Fisheries and Ocean resources and Petroleum resources sectors.
International challenges are not posed from a single party or direction. That is why Sri Lanka has to consider various factors in promoting international relations.

Media responsibility
Although Sri Lanka’s image abroad fast deteriorated to a low ebb during the war, attempts made by certain countries to tarnish its image further in a well designed manner is the biggest challenge currently facing the country. A case in point is the Channel 4 television video. We must try to understand how international political and media sectors acted to realize their objectives during the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Turkey, Palestine as well as Sri Lanka.
If we are to overcome these pressures and march forward as an independent country our society should clearly identify and understand the forces arraigned against us. The international media is launching attacks on Iraq, Libya, Osama, Afghanistan and other countries who fall victim to them by hypnotizing the world and transforming untruth to truth and injustice to justice. In such scenarios we should consider as to how the media should influence Sri Lanka’s role and responsibility.
The government started a programme of extending communication technology througout the country several years ago. With the influx of communication technology the print and electronic media got established with commercial motives. Telephones have reached 105 percent of the total population.
A communication net has been drawn over our heads connecting people throughout the world. A massive information barrage is unleashed daily which society cannot withstand or cope with. Society is marching towards a grave crisis due to its inability to sift through this flood of information and chose between what is good and bad.
Lead stories in the print and electronic media are highlighting only problems, and conflicts. These news stories are categorized as political victimization and denial of human rights to sell information to the international world. Although this may bring some profits to the relevant institutions it will cause much harm to society. Advertisements too have hypnotized people to think that they always contain nothing but absolute truth. Newscasts in certain Television channels tend to upset people’s minds.
Public opinion
Much has to be desired as regards the content and language used in radio programmes. Can’t newscasts represent a national viewpoint or opinion and create awareness among people to think intelligently? Have media persons ever given thought to this angle.
Media which try to survive by selling any type of information can be described as trash or garbage media. We have to examine whether they have valuable programmes for selection by the people.
We believe that the duty and responsibility of the media is to ensure better lives to the people. That is why the government allows the media to operate freely in society.
The government’s responsibility is to grant sanction for the operation of media institutions. The true inheritors of the media are the people. Therefore media is a public property and media institutions have to be accountable to the people in using it.
It is therefore important to identify the country’s national timetable or agenda. For this there should be a national media agenda. The media performed its collective duty when the tsunami struck Sri Lanka. It played its role adequately during the ending of the terrorist war. The local media played a laudable and provable role during the American operation against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.
The government, people and the media are intertwined. People impacting on public opinion should identify their national role and responsibility and act by thinking in a multiracial multicultural and multi-religious manner. The rights of all citizens should be safeguarded in the implementation of development strategies. The government which has realized the importance of this role has created that opportunity within the Mahinda Chinthana policies. Acting according to it the Mass Media and Information Ministry is now building a national media policy.
Apart from this various media organizations and affiliates are establishing their own codes of conduct, advisories, guides and regulations. The government has rendered a great amount of service on behalf of the media sector.
The media today have no need to be subjected to regulation or influence. What is the role of the media in times of a national problem, challenge or as regards development activities?
Can the print and electronic media be considered as separate entities or compartments? These are subjects which should be subjected to an extensive debate today. Many organizations and institutions have expressed willingness to build up such a debate. We invite everyone to join in this debate. Wrong media operations have caused social disasters as evidenced in various countries in Africa and South America and even South India.
Most newspapers today give prominence to conflicts, corrupt practices, acts of revenge, accidents, and women and child abuse. We should realize the damage caused to people’s intelligence by such stories.
Citizens media are fast expanding today through mobile phones and internet. A large flow of information is experienced through twitter, facebook email blog and other technologies. This has internationalized political, economic religious and cultural operations.
This will cause unnecessary pressure. When local news is wrongly emitted to the international world, the international community will form a wrong picture about Sri Lanka based on these false reports. Therefore we should think not twice but several times when disseminating news through the Internet.
Dissemination wrong information will make the international community formulate their agenda against our country. Global, political and economic murderers have deployed their media to hypnotize the world community. Their hegemonic opinions and attitudes have mentally disabled the people. The strategy of the global powers is to hypnotize the people towards a dormant posture. The 20 million people living in our tiny island too have willingly or unwillingly fallen prey to their tactics.

Print and electronic media
Media have a vital role to play in human development while protecting the country’s culture, and values. We have to look back and see whether today’s print and electronic media have performed this task. People who give news alerts on crimes, corrupt activities and abductions are led mainly by political, economic and financial concerns. They do little towards social and human development. We only see projects undertaken with profit motives.
The media which should guide the nation have become stranded today due to competition. This has led to broken families and loss of our treasured values and humanism. Time has come when everyone should pay more attention to communication, IT and media sectors. Although many institutions have been set up for this propose with a large number of officials they seem to be only interested in the day-to-day activities. Time has come for intellectuals, researchers and communication experts to look beyond without limiting their activities to the letter only. A nursery is now being established for this propose. Joint action by officers, authorities, media heads and media persons has become a need of the times.

Translated by D. P. Wickramasinghe

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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