Media wars and whores in the media

| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(November 10, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Journalists who write independently and without strings attached to vested interests are in constant penury. The blight that has befallen our journalists today with the government muzzling websites which antagonise the government, particularly the Rajapakse Family (the two cannot be distinguished), is the making of our very own media. Our media has become easy prey to genuflecting before the government and other corporate bodies which own independent media.
The media will never be able to muster enough votes to implement any law that could give them a semblance of independence.

Whilst there are journalists who, in the words of Mangala Samaraweera, once media minister under President Kumaratunga, `can be bought for a bottle of whisky’ , there are those fiercely independent journalists who have become fodder for the government’s cannon. And to date 37 journalists have been killed since 1990 and not a single murder has been investigated or any suspects brought to trial. Instead some scape-goats have been apprehended and made to escape since there were no evidence to indict them. Many more journalists have fled the country.

Up to 1971 journalists had an easy task. There was no war, no insurrection and the most a journalist would be hauled up by the management was for mis-spelling a VIP’s name or mixing captions on photographs.
It is a smooth ride to the top at the state media as long as journalists towed the line with the government. The trick of the trade for journalists who aspire to high office is to do no investigating, rewrite releases from the ministries, place VIPs’ photographs prominently as they cut ribbons to open buildings or as they hoist a baby and give it fond kisses and generally boot-lick their paymasters.
When Karu Jayasuriya, the co-deputy leader of the main opposition UNP (United National Party) announced his decision to move a Private Members’ Bill on Freedom of Information in June this year the ministers Basil Rajapakse and Dinesh Gunawardena vociferously objected and said the government would not allow the Bill to become law under any circumstances.
The irony is that UNP could not implement the Bill presented in 2004 due to the dissolution of parliament.
Now Ranil Wickremesinghe is a man who cannot make any decision all by himself. His lisp apart, he also seems to have a forked tongue. His right side of the tongue doth not know what the left says and vice versa. Chandrika’s acid remark that Ranil has `katte pittu’ should have been stretched to `katte pittapasse’ to include his abysmal record in prevaricating on issues that require post-haste decisions. Some things simply cannot be left to hibernate.
It is the same Ranil who patted the government’s back for bringing the war to an end who is now shedding crocodile tears over the blocking of certain websites. Where does the man stand? No wonder he is the longest serving opposition leader with not a sign of ever becoming the President.
At least after three attempts an A/L student who fails his exam has to call it a day. But not with politics. They can go on ad infinitum until they meet their maker.
That is neither here nor there.
The media will never be able to muster enough votes to implement any law that could give them a semblance of independence.
From the Official Secrets Act to Public Service Ordinance and the succeeding PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) brought in the aftermath of JVP rising of 1971 the government is steadfast in curtailing press freedom.
Since all laws are man-made they can also be broken not exactly in the country where they are implemented but outside its territory. The more the media is muzzled the fiercer they react as we now see in the follow-up Killing Fields by Channel 4. The timing is right and tangible, authentic and substantiated evidence of war crimes against Sri Lanka is marking the end of the era of the Rajapakses.
To top it all a human rights group based in UK has presented UN with 300 testimonies of torture and rape during the last throes of the war. The government had better prepare itself for a gruelling time from the international courts.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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