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Published On:Sunday, June 15, 2008
Posted by azad

Enemies Within


Jehan says more: "the bus attacks were likely a tit-for-tat kind of retaliation by the rebels." Tit-for-tat! Now that's neutrality in the purest sense of the word for you. The irresponsibility comes from the fact that neither Jehan nor Francis seem to have any clue about what's 'tit' and what's 'tat' or if they did, are happy to leave it be. Mischievous. Irresponsible. Sunanda Deshapriya ought to be livid, and so too those wide-eyed Reporters Sans Frontiers boys and girls so given to pontificating on and feeding on other people's miseries. We hear not a murmur from these worthies.
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by Malinda Seneviratne


(June 15, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is a lot of talk about media freedom in this country. If we go by what the so-called 'Free Media Movement (FMM)' spits out every now and then, this is a government that is taking pot-shots at journalists at the drop of a hat. Happily, though, everyone knows that the FMM is nothing more, nothing less, than a bunch of jokers who operate under the mistaken belief that journalists are above the law and who will bend themselves backwards to make mountains out of molehills and of course to do their bit to support the LTTE, not so much by white-washing their crimes against humanity but positing the state and the LTTE as equals in volume and character of violence perpetrated.

The same goes for the loonies who call themselves 'Working Journalists', most of whom do little journalism and hardly ever work. However, this we-are-being-hunted rant is their bread and butter, we need to understand. Anything less than a virulently anti-journalist state would see their funding dry up.

Let's assume, though, for argument's sake, that these people are really serious about 'journalism' and that they epitomize the highest journalistic values. They have after all wriggled themselves into the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which, we admit, is creditable for a two-bit outfit made of unscrupulous men and women masquerading as human rights activists and, yes, saints. Not that the PCC amounts to much, of course.

My question is this: does self-criticism have any value in their book? Are they wont to turn a blind eye on the horrendous irresponsibility indulged in by fellow-travellers, some of whom come disguised now as political analysts and now as journalists? Or do they have their own sacred cows that are given a wide berth?

Last week over 20 people were killed in a terrorist bomb attack on a bus in Moratuwa. One Krishan Francis writing for the Associated Press reported the incident and coloured it by a lot of slanted editorializing. Francis quickly moved to trivialize this act of terrorism by employing the weighted scales that is the trademark of rogue traders. This is the script:

"A bomb goes off. Government accuses LTTE, LTTE denies or remains silent. Reference an LTTE claim about the military killing Tamil civilians and of course a denial by the Government."

What do we have? Equivalency. A deliberate act of terrorism targeting civilians (not combatants) bearing the LTTE's signature and with an independently verifiable death toll is all of a sudden morally, politically and arithmetically equal to an unverified/unverifiable death toll of people who are claimed by an interested party (the LTTE) to be civilians *deliberately* targeted by the security forces.

They do need some kind of 'intellectual' buttressing here and who do they turn to but Jehan Perera, often described as an 'independent' political analyst. This was the quote attributed to Jehan Perera (of the National Peace Council, an independent activist group, according to Francis): "This could be the start of a worsening cycle of targeting civilians."

Jehan Perera and the National Peace Council are hardly 'independent'. Jehan Perera has a right to opinion but his views are as valid as anyone else for he's no expert on Sri Lanka or the politics therein. Only a journalistic quack or a politically compromised reporter or media institution will call him for a quote. A more responsible and professional journalist would, even as per the AP's skewed notion of balance, obtain other opinions, especially from other parts of the political spectrum. No, instead, Francis goes to some one who represents a minuscule minority and believes he is doing the right thing by the public.

Jehan says more: "the bus attacks were likely a tit-for-tat kind of retaliation by the rebels." Tit-for-tat! Now that's neutrality in the purest sense of the word for you. The irresponsibility comes from the fact that neither Jehan nor Francis seem to have any clue about what's 'tit' and what's 'tat' or if they did, are happy to leave it be. Mischievous. Irresponsible. Sunanda Deshapriya ought to be livid, and so too those wide-eyed Reporters Sans Frontiers boys and girls so given to pontificating on and feeding on other people's miseries. We hear not a murmur from these worthies.

Assuming that the Moratuwa attack was Jehan's 'tit', I wonder how he came to swallow wholesale the 'tat' of the matter. Does he believe the LTTE? If so, on what is that belief founded on? Why does he so trust a terrorist's word? Is he a closet or not-so-closet sympathizer and are his infrequent mutterings condemning the LTTE merely eye-wash?

Jehan, like his pals in the Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Free Media Movement and other such NGOs with dubious agenda, have a comparative advantage: sleight of hand. Sleight of hand is an attribute that rebels against serious discourse. Its adherents are not independent and are not analysts worth running after for a quote.

The FMM will not take issue with Jehan for being mischievous bordering on complicity in the LTTE's propaganda machinations. The FMM will leave the Associated Press alone. Sacred cows? Partners in crime?

My hunch is that the Associted Press and other wire agencies such as Reuters and AFP will continue to quote Jehan Perera. For two reasons. Firstly, most of these journalists happen to be his fellow-travelers on a journey that is patently not agenda-free. Secondly, they don't give a damn about professionalism. The Press Complaints Commission, that watchdog on watchdogs will continue to nap happily. The FMM will look the other way *even* *if *they had the eyes to read between Jehan's lines and had the skills to work through tits and tats.

They may, if they so choose, bear in mind this simple fact: the ultimate watchdog is the people. They will watch the dogs and their minders for they know that the dogs are not there to protect them or their interests but rather operating dead against them. And one day, some of them will ask, 'Who let these dogs out?' And some of them will do something about it. Rabies, we all know, has to be eradicated. * *

Is that a threat? Yes. Not an LTTE kind of threat, don't worry, but a pledge to keep our eyes open not just for the suicide bomber but his/her approver (one way or another).
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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Posted by azad on 10:10. Filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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