Buddhists, victims of HATE SPEECH and Media manipulation
They say you cannot fool the people all of the time and the recent
announcement by a Minister who thinks he is doing a favour to those he
closely associates with is like a blessing in disguise for the real
victims of hate speech and the likelihood that it is going to boomerang
on the very authors of the proposed hate speech legislation is something
they have not yet taken into consideration. Almost 50 years ago the
Press Commission Report of 1964 revealed some startling truths on the
conduct of the Press and its manipulative activities, which 50 years on
remains relevant. Victims of hate speech were and continue to be the
Buddhists and there is ample evidence to prove it.
To approach the argument of hate speech we need to re-visit the
Report and re-state the golden words contained in para 112, page 56 of
the 1964 report of the Commission that was chaired by Justice K D de
Silva, Press Commissioner:
“If these English language newspapers were sufficiently patriotic
they could have made a very useful contribution to bringing about unity
among the various communities after the country achieved its
independence. They should have advised the minority groups to adapt
themselves to the changing circumstances and exhorted the majority to be
generous towards the former. They failed to do that. What they
consistently did was to poison the minds of the minority groups and
encourage them to fight to retain the unjust privileges they had
received during the era of foreign domination. ”
In today’s context is the above statement not relevant to the manner
in which the private English language mainstream newspapers function?
Taking into consideration the editorial population: –
* How many of these editorial posts are held by Buddhists?
* How many of these newspapers belong to non-Buddhist ownerships?
* Who are the regular columnists and to what ethnicities and religions
do they belong to?
* How many articles are regularly featured that denigrate Buddhists
through these private English newspapers or subtly attribute the fault
at the doorstep of the Buddhists?
Now the answer to the real victims of hate speech becomes easier to
Buddhism bashing columnists
The regular columnists appearing in all the private English
newspapers are: Anne A (never misses a chance to engage in Sinhala and
Buddhism Bashing), Dharisha B, Dushey R, Harim P, Kishali P, Kumar D,
Latheef F, Shanie (Notebook), Tisaranee G, Uvindu K, R Philips, Sonali
S, Fredrica J, RM Senanayake, Izeth H etc… these articles are then
complimented with another set of regular columnists that include Kumar
R, Surendra Ajit, Basil F, Nimalika F, Pakisothy, Jehan P, Dayan J.
Their writings do not shower praises about the Sinhalese, the Buddhists
or their love for the country.
What they write is not their personal opinion either. By virtue of
their profession, the allegiance to forums, organizations and other
associations they are tasked to denigrate the Buddhists in a plan to
project a “Mahavansa Mentality” so as to take away the nationalistic
pride that the Sinhalese Buddhist possess in view of their heritage and
Buddhist civilization. Recolonization and subservience appears to be the
goal. We now need to call their bluff.
A closer look will also reveal links to foreign funded organizations
most of whom back destabilizing of the nation, distorting history by
regularly feeding lies which the English readers come to accept, most
linked to non-Buddhist organizations that have a clear plan to demonise
and denigrate the Sinhala Buddhists, break their will and confine them
to a corner even legislatively by slowly planting their people into key
Governmental roles secured by virtue of their English education,
contacts that promote their position and because they belong to the
fashionable circles of Colombo society.
Thus, Sri Lanka has been accustomed to opening the English newspapers
to read headlines that almost always carry “fascist Buddhists”,
“Buddhist extremists”, “Sinhala supremacists”, “Racist Sinhalese
Buddhists” and the list is endless. Some headline names are appalling.
In contrast, how many articles are written that praise the Rajapaksa
government or our Buddhist Kings or heroes in our ancient past? The
literary achievements of the Sinhalese in the pre-colonial era are
hardly covered. And if anyone writes about how nice the roads are in
Colombo, or how well the infrastructure is in the North – is that
equated to mean that the writers are pro-Rajapaksa? Can people not write
about the good things the government does without them being labeled? Do
people always have to write like the above columnists painting a sordid
picture of a failed state?
What appears to be the difference from then and now is that the
“THEN” Buddhism bashing or slandering slogans were silently accepted by
the majority Buddhists without challenge and thus these “hate speeches”
had been so commonly used that it did not appear as “hate speech” and it
was almost as if every article had to use these terminologies to get
published. But, the ballgame has now changed. There is a limit to what
the people can tolerate or should tolerate. Now, when the Buddhists are
demanding fair play and equal platform with right of replies and
equality in newspaper coverage in the private English media – the
response is to quickly gather the editors and columnists together and
project a picture of victimhood using the statistical reality of the
population yet ignoring the statistical reality of how the minorities
were using the private English media to totally ridicule the Sinhalese
Buddhists and generate contempt for them. This is the issue that needs
to be highlighted and addressed.
False depiction of Buddhists as intolerant
The 1964 Commission report perfectly summed this up: “With regard to
the English reading public, the impression has been created that the
communal and religious minorities must get together and oppose the
Sinhalese Buddhist majority if they are to get any rights at all. The
point of view is put forward that the Sinhalese Buddhist majority is
intolerant and is trying to deprive the minorities of their rights. As a
matter of fact it is not so.’”(PCR para 46, pages 25 -26)
This is further strengthened by Sir Nicholas Attygalle, the
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ceylon in his evidence who said
that he had come across mischievous propaganda against the Sinhalese on
his visits to England and USA, and he believed that the source of this
false news was our own leading newspapers. (PRC para 49, page 27).
All the columnists mentioned above are regularly quoted
internationally – therefore should we be in the least surprised why the
world gets a wrong impression of Sri Lanka? Some of them are even
invited to international conferences where they “tearfully” bemoan the
fate of “journalists” and the lack of “good governance” in Sri Lanka. No
one is bold enough to challenge them at the virtuous ways they function!
The challenges therefore are that there are many local journalists
who are being funded and sponsored to write against their own country.
Most are now located in foreign stations claiming to be “victim”. Some
of these are able to quickly pack a suitcase and take a flight, get a
scholarship and a job while for us the process of visa application,
submission of financial statements and sponsorship letters and interview
decides whether we are to be given visa or not.
They are paid to use their local knowledge and talent to fabricate
lies, create mischief, engage in slander, twist stories and promote
disunity among communities through well-funded websites and email
campaigns. If we say this is “gutter journalism” who can disagree and
who will demand freedom of expression for such journalists?
So where in them do we find “ethics”?
Take a segment of any private newspapers – browse through the
articles published and count the number of articles that ridicule the
Buddhists and blame the Sinhalese for all the troubles in Sri Lanka.
The media fraternity that is ever ready to cry foul over freedoms
denied may well like to explain why they have selected attacks on what
and about whom they write. A good example is how all these years the
media kept very silent on Lalith Kotelawala and his corrupt investment
activities because they were all part of what was called the “kept
press”. How many can afford to silence media from publishing news by
virtue of how well they can “look after” the press? Is press freedom and
journalism equated to mean that the English press can laugh at a
heritage or be paid to write untruths? Is it unfashionable for them to
speak about the Sinhala Buddhist kings who kept the civilization of Sri
Lanka together and they would prefer to write more about how many times
the Queen sneezes or the DNA of Prince William? As against the pro-West
news that dominate the English newspapers how many articles are
published about Asian heroes, Asian leaders or their high achievements?
Does the media ever attempt to promote links between Sri Lanka and
Buddhist Asia? Do we want to belong to the Asian continent? Are we to
always follow copy cat type of journalism where we do not create our own
niche but replicate what is available in Western news? Do we always have
to wait for a Westerner to praise Asia to write about something Asian?
The editors of English newspapers in Sri Lanka feel satisfied by running
a one page Poya day supplement to argue that equal status to Buddhism is
given in a nation that has over 70 per cent Buddhists but are poorly
served with a lack of quality feature articles and news stories
concerning Buddhist events and Buddhist personalities. The ‘Buddhist
Channel’ based in Kuala Lumpur provides a good role model for choice of
The discrimination is very visible. The Hate Speech will certainly
provide an opportune platform with which to bring out with examples of
how not a single editorial was written when Wahhabi gangs in Bangladesh
attacked Buddhist temples and destroyed the artefacts, when even the
Thai PM’s visit to Sri Lanka was given step-motherly treatment and not a
single line was written about the Thai King while she was in Sri Lanka.
Juxtapose this was the manner the newspapers were full of articles when
the Middle East went on a rampage over a video that the rioters hadn’t
The situation is really no different in India. The mainstream English
media is owned by the Christians and Muslims and when Hindus make their
voice the immediate reaction is to claim “hate speech” and this was well
articulated by Dr. Subramaniam Swamy as well.
No government should think it can throw a lavish cocktail and court
media personnel and think they can twist their stories to national
advantage. Those that are courted by foreign interests earn far more
than what the government can afford to give.
Therefore, the best way to move forward is to properly remedy the
problem and that remedy must come in the form of another National Media
or Press Commission along the lines of the Justice K D de Silva Press
Commission of 1964 where a thorough content analysis can be made of
print and electronic media and expose the anti-national, anti-Buddhist,
pro-LTTE bias of the media. Hate speech must first target those that
created, initiated, and planted the chaos before going after those that
react. Those that cause the conflict must be first named and accused.
The government which has come to power on the exclusive Buddhist vote
must not fall into traps laid by those who support the ‘NGO Chinthanaya’
attempting to slyly promote sinister agendas.
These legislative proposals must be rejected because the country is
now beginning to open their eyes and to understand what is taking place.
Certainly ‘hate speech’ is welcome for it will enable the Buddhists to
come out in their numbers and log complaints with the Police given that
they have been the victims of the witch-hunt all these years. It is now
time to name and shame. In all matters the playing field must be level –
then only there is fair play.