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Hijacking media is not free expression

[Lakbima News, Sunday, 29 January 2012 12:28 No Comment]

To celebrate the hijacking of the local media by a bunch of NGO operators with dubious motives, and to call that celebration a key media event in the country should be suicidal to the fortunes of local media, but yet this is exactly what is happening. Last week some of the country’s media organizations declared a Black January, stating that naming the protests in this way alerted the country to the fact that most attacks on media persons have been carried in this month.

And what did the Black January protesters scream about? Their protests were focused on the fact that there have been attacks on the media in the period 2006 to 2012. Any idiot should have been able to discern the narrow political motives inherent in confining any narrative about attacks on media persons to the time period between 2006 and 12, which signifies the tenure of the current government in power.

D.P. Sivaram alias Taraki Perhaps this writer more than any other is qualified to comment on the killing of D.P. Sivaram alias Taraki who happened to be a close personal friend. For anybody who needs their memories jogged, Taraki was killed in 2005 during the administration of the previous president Chandrika Kumaratunge — who now happens to be on the side that is shedding copious tears on behalf of media persons who are allegedly coming under attack.

No abductions or significant attacks

However, the media organizations of this country have been talked into protesting about attacks on journalists that took place in the timespan 2006- 12, and yet there are some media persons trying to tell us that this is a nonpartisan and neutral effort on behalf of media professionals in this country?

So who exactly were the media persons that were killed in 2011, the last year on record? There haven’t been any, and neither have there been any abductions or significant attacks on media personnel in that year, but the Black January is supposed to signify the ongoing attacks on the media by those in Authority?

No more needs to be said. It is sad that the media of this country lends itself to be unquestioningly led by NGO affiliated conmen operating from abroad, and often pulling the strings on behalf of agents of various foreign entities. Sunanda Deshapriya, the disgraced former NGO man caught red-handed with his hand in the till, is for instance said to be orchestrating events from his comfortable hideout in some Western capital.

Asking to speed up investigations in some of the unresolved cases of murders and abductions of journalists that took place in the period running up to the conclusion of hostilities with the LTTE in 2009, and its immediate aftermath is one thing — but to peg the entire rationale for the protests to the contention that there are ongoing attacks on the media, is both insincere and untrue to the facts.

What’s wrong is not dissent but the overtly obvious political ambitions behind the distortion of the big picture regarding the media. Black January? It’s resonant of Black July, which term was coined to remember an unfortunate progrom that targeted Tamil people in 1983.

Black January is obviously a nomenclature that is designed to, by wordplay, evoke a picture of mass killings that resonate with the carnage of 1983. This is not insincerity, it is desperation.

What the overt politicization of media issues does in the end, is a disservice to the true cause of preserving the credibility and integrity of the local media.

Gross politicization, and misrepresentation of facts as detailed above, causes real media issues to be submerged in the cacophony created by partisan opposition adventurism.

Cardinal principle

In other words, the media gets a bad name in the community, for sacrificing independence at the altar of political expediency.

This is no trifling matter, particularly in a developing country backdrop. If the people cannot trust the media not to be hijacked, there goes the watchdog function of the journalists.

Lastly, for those who tear their hair saying that the issue of hijacking of media is a myth serving the interests of those who want to stifle legitimate protests, there is a lesson in this, which is that they are forgetting a cardinal principle of professionalism.

It is that journalists are supposed to verify the evidence, and consider the facts. Isn’t the contention that there is ongoing violence against media a misrepresentation of the facts considering that there have been no such incidents the last year?

Who is Sunanda Deshapriya, and what is his involvement with his input from abroad? Isn’t he a disgraced element — having been on the take, and on the pay, of NGOs funded by foreign interests? And so this is a legitimate protest, not a foreign funded partisan adventure?

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