The media has
earned the encomium of being the watchdog of the nation and for
good reason. For no other agency or medium could influence
public thinking and perceptions as the contemporary mass media.
Not for nothing then has the media been credited for making and
unmaking of Governments.
Sri Lanka has been fortunate in having a vibrant media
culture which has helped shape public opinion as well as
reflecting the public mood. It would not be an exaggeration to
say that the media over the years had played the most
significant role in keeping the public up to date with the
unfolding developments in the social, political and cultural
spheres and has rightfully earned it’s position as the Fourth
Estate behind only the executive judiciary and the legislature.
True there have been periods when the country’s media were
subjected to certain restrictions. But these fetters could not
prevent the mass mood prevailing over all such restrictions.
The public by and large did not condone efforts to prevent
their right to information and most post Independent Governments
learnt this truism to their own cost.
Therefore it can truthfully said that the public have over
the years evolved into a mature lot who cannot be easily
deceived, be it by Government propaganda or other vested
interests masquerading as purveyors of genuine news or
information, to influence it’s thinking. Today the people have
learnt as they say in journalistic jargon the art of reading
between the lines.
But with the giant strides made in the media field with the
advent of multimedia TV channels there has been a mad rush to
disseminate new at present with speed been of the essence more
often than not truth being a casualty.
The very term ‘first and fast’ used as a catchline to attract
the viewers interest by certain channels is a good example of
this phenomenon. In the not too distant past we have had the
experience of a channel being temporarily suspended due to an
irresponsible news telecast in this mad rush to be the first
with the news.
This tendency was seen during the height of the conflict when
competition was at it’s zenith which unfortunately resulted in
falsehoods or half truths passed down as news that sometimes
bordered on the provocative and incitement to communal violence.
This may well have been the reason for President Mahinda
Rajapaksa to plead with the media to be more responsible, now
that the conflict is over. The President is aware of the vital
role that can be played by the media in the healing process
after the decades long bitterness and estrangement between the
two major communities.
Speaking to media heads at Temple Trees on Friday President
Rajapaksa made an earnest plea not to use the media to disturb
the communal harmony in the new era that has begun with the
defeat of LTTE terrorism and the unification of the motherland.
“My earnest plea to you is not to write or broadcast anything
that would create unnecessary divisions in society”.
The President has already embarked on an earnest mission to
rebuild a fractured society driven by communal divisions for
decades. He is therefore anxious that nothing queers the pitch
in this endeavour to forge a united Sri Lanka where all
communities enjoy equal rights and no longer live in suspicion
of each other.
The President told the heads of media “ there is a danger
that even a small incident could be blown up by provocative
elements to cause much damage”. He added “do not write anything
to arouse hatred, do not let another terrorist movement to
The President no doubt is aware of the negative role played
by certain media especially during the early days of the
conflict that went on to exacerbate the deep divisions that were
already present .
Hence his advise to the media to act with caution. He is
obviously determined to harken to the slogan that henceforth
there will be no communities based on ethnicities in the Sri
Lanka but only those who love the country and those who don’t.
It will be the responsibility of the media to help foster
such a concept that would see an end once and to all divisions
in the national polity that saw the nation plunge down a precipe.
The President is now ready to raise the nation from it’s fallen
Hence his determination to see nothing stand in the way of
this onerous task. It will be the responsibility for all
segments to support his endeavour. The media no less.