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Government Gazette

The International Community and their Agenda on Sri Lanka - Part III:

Impact of media on masses


This is the third part of the serialized excerpts from a forthcoming publication titled ‘Sri Lanka - the War fuelled by International Peace’ by Palitha Senanayake. These extracts from Chapter 16 of the book are published with the kind permission of the author. The second part was published yesterday

The net effect of this one-sided barrage of propaganda on the part of the Western INGOs will only serve to weaken the GOSL arm of the conflict with concomitant rejuvenation of the non state party, thereby prolonging the conflict. Therefore the Sri Lankan Government, instead of being apologetic, should make a concerted effort to highlight these laws that are applicable to Sri Lanka in this unique situation rather than allowing the international diplomats, the Tamil Diaspora and the INGOs to indulge in indiscriminate criticism of alleged ‘human rights violations’.

UN mission

Had the proposal by Louse Arbour in 2008 to establish a UN mission to monitor human rights been acceded to, it would have been a case of Sri Lanka inviting the UNO to interfere in its internal affairs violating, Additional protocol 11 of 1977 under Article 3 of the UN Charter.

Print media play an important role in communication. ANCL file photo

The LTTE started its criminal activities in 1975 and its terror in 1982. We have quoted in this book a few letters by Tamil expatriates who have evoked nostalgic memories of the peaceful Jaffna and the Northern Province in the ’70s.

It is only after 1982 that all these questionable acts on alleged violations by the Government Forces have taken place. Similarly there were certain genuine human right violations during the JVP insurrection in other parts of the country in 1989 which prompted the incumbent President to report the then Sri Lankan Government to the UN. But with the overcoming of the JVP threat and with return to normalcy, the human rights situation too has become normal and acceptable.

Political causes

This is proof that it is when non state actors perpetrate violence, allegedly for ‘political causes’, that the human rights situation reaches somewhat questionable levels. Then if an organization is genuinely interested in the violation of human rights in a country it will be the responsibility of such organizations to ensure that the Government of that country remains stable because it is only in such a situation that they could reasonably operate and account for the violations.

If they cannot contribute in any way to ensure the stability, then they will do well not to contribute in anyway towards the prevailing instability, for human rights violators can thrive under such instability. This is tantamount to blaming a sick man for his own physical malfunctions, causing the man to become more sick and eventually reach a stage beyond cure.

These irregularities have been perpetrated on little Sri Lanka by the NGOs with such unobtrusiveness and for so long that it is now becoming clear that these are not the results of accidents or misunderstanding but of policy decision to destabilize small countries. It would be too lame to think that the Western nations are advanced in every aspect of their affairs except in understanding world problems.

Freedom of expression

The role played by national news reporting and journalism cannot be over emphasized in offering a sense of direction and a regulatory impetus to a democratic nation in that, it is often believed that the media is the ‘forth estate’ of the nations governance.

The three preceding being, the Legislator, the Executive and the Judiciary. Placed in such an august position, it would be the bounden duty of those who man the media institutions to conduct the affairs of their institutions in a manner that is worthy of such positioning. The situation in Sri Lanka in this respect for the past 30 years however, leaves much to be desired and this is specially so with regard to the English speaking media institutions heralded by the popular English newspapers, that have been very much a part and parcel of the English speaking fraternity of the country.

It was Gandhi who said that “English is the window to the world, but we should not let the wind that comes from that window to blow us off our feet”. This could be equally true of the media in general, in the context of a developing nations that are trying to stand on their own feet after years of exploitation and plunder.

National policy

The current situation in Sri Lanka is a far cry from this philosophy and it is no exaggeration to say that in the Sri Lankan context, we have opened not only the window but also the doors and whatever else, only to be swept off our feet, lock stock and barrel by the media.

This again is the fault of Sri Lanka not having a national policy on media. Two classic examples in this regard are the country’s protracted problem with the LTTE and the country’s economic development. For years since independence, the perception on both these issues, at the highest level in the country, has been that the country needs the Western guidance to solve the ‘ethnic crisis’ and it needs more ‘foreign aid and loans’ to sustain the economy. The truth is that the ‘Ethnic crisis’ is misconceived notion for what really is terrorism and dependence on foreign aid is a compromise on a nation’s sovereignty.

Western nations

The net result would be to succumb to economic subjugation to Western economic imperialism which the Western nations so subtly pursue from the time their past tactics of colonial subjugation became outdated. There are ‘interest groups’ within Sri Lanka, who sagaciously or otherwise look forward to profit from this impending destabilization of the country and they are more powerful than they appear to be and their methods are so subtle and insidious.

They have realized the importance of media in achieving their ends and to that effect they have infiltrated the media to ensure its obedience and loyalty to them. Such ‘interest groups’ not only have invaded the media institutions of the country to ‘pull wool’ over the nations eyes, and they even know the price of our ‘so called’ leaders of the traditional political parties. Such interest groups only have to cry horse about lack of press freedom so that the Western INGOs will come running to their assistance to publicize strictures against the country’s Government.

A primary allegation the privately owned media in Sri Lanka makes against the Government is that, there is Government owned media in Sri Lanka and hence the media is controlled by the Government.

Nowhere in the world is the media ideally free. In the West the media is in the hands of a few rich individuals or companies. The United Kingdom boast of a free press! But news papers like the Independent, Times, The Mirror, Guadian, Star, BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 and other print and electronic media giants are either companies or privately owned and hence the ordinary people have absolutely no say in those. The Government has direct as well as indirect control over the press anywhere. In other countries other than the West, the media is either State owned or State controlled.

Mass media is what reaches the masses. Considering the advancement in technology over the years and the sophistication achieved as a means of influence over the masses, role of media should never be underestimated but realistically evaluated.

In this world of today where propaganda and hype has achieved such heights to the point of enveloping the bare facts of any given situation media is bound to be crucial to the well-being of any society.

While baring the facts with sensible commentaries can be a source of enlightenment to the masses, the propaganda hype that caters to baser instincts in a society could damage mass interest, as opium would, even voluntarily, to a society.

In the larger picture when you consider the entirety of the Sri Lankan media it is only about 30 percent of the media that is government owned and the balance is privately owned. The private media tries to imbue in to public that when a media institute is privately owned it speaks the truth. This in fact is far from reality because every private media institution in Sri Lanka has their own political and cultural agenda and there are interest groups behind these institutions. They are comprised human beings and are therefore susceptible to human failings, vested interests and personal agendas. In a democracy however, it is only the Government that could claim to have a moral right to propagate its agenda because it is only the Government that has got a mandate from the people. But the private media, ironically in an attempt to promote its own agenda criticize the Government owned media in the guise of ‘freedom of expression’. Then is free media the ‘freedom of the wild ass’?

It is not possible to suppress the media because it is so powerful and has no defined or demarcated limits. Even under dictatorship media will play its role quite effectively.

Even if you ban all media institutions the media can still function even in the form of ‘Grape vine’ and that could be more inimical and dangerous than the organized and responsible media institutions.

Next: Part IV



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