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Cock-eyed Chris Morris files slanted report on Lanka for the Biased British Corporation (BBC)



By H. L. D. Mahindapala

(January 28, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Chris Morris, a senior BBC journalist, has been covering Sri Lanka from periodically from 1992 when he was first posted to Colombo as its correspondent. His latest broadcast from Colombo (January 7, 2009) is typical of the BBC slant on Sri Lankan issues.

He is focusing on “civilians dying” in the last stage of the war. He opens his report with guns of Sri Lankan forces firing into Tamil Tiger targets in the jungle and adds that the pictures do not show the other side – the side where civilians are dying. Morris is implying that the killing is done by the Sri Lankan army firing at civilians. He does not say that (1) the Tamil civilians are held against their wishes to serve as a human shield to protect the Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, who has no other weapon other than Tamil children and civilians and (2) the Tigers are firing from areas where the civilians are to draw fire from the Security Forces. The Bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Savundranayagam, and the American Ambassador, Robert Blake, have condemned this Tiger tactic..



Media reports quoted Blake, as saying that the LTTE must immediately desist from firing heavy weapons from areas within or near civilian concentrations. He was addressing a formal handing over of food relief donation to the World Food Programme, a UN agency yesterday. Ambassador Blake said more than 230,000 internally displaced persons trapped by fighting in the north are facing great danger and urged both sides to protect civilians as the fighting gets closer to the no-fire zone established by the Government.

Blake urged the LTTE leadership to live up to its obligations under international humanitarian law and allow the trapped civilians freedom to escape the fighting.

How did Morris miss this fact known to all circles in Colombo? He also avoids focusing on the war perpetuated by Prabhakaran who can end the war whenever decides to do so. But despite sacrificing a generation of Tamil children and Tamil youth with no results to his credit he continues to wage a war at the expense of the Tamil civilians and children without releasing them to find safe havens provided by the Sri Lankan government. He is also refusing to release UN workers who went in a convoy on January 16 carrying essentials to the conflict zone. Among them is an Australian aid worker. The UN spokesman in Sri Lanka told the correspondent of The Australian: “The LTTE initially stopped us from taking people out and we have been in the process of negotiating to try and get them out ever since.”

Morris skips over this aspect. He is focusing only on the offensive launched by the Sri Lankan forces. Increasing deaths is a matter of concern no doubt. But equally important is the act of Tamil Tigers using Tamil civilians as a human shield which is the primary cause for most of the civilian deaths. Morris has not seen this at all. He has nothing to say about it either.

He says that half a million (?) are trapped between the two competing armies. But he angles the footage and his story to highlight only the firing of the Sri Lankan forces which he says will intensify the killing.

He also quotes a UN official who says that a dozen civilians have been injured and killed and adds that the figures could rise. But he is silent on the aspect of Tamil Tigers refusing to let the Tamil civilians or the UN aid workers go into safe havens. Chris Morris is doing what his former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher told BBC: not to do: “give oxygen to the terrorists”.

He has also pleased the Tamil diaspora by quoting B. Nadesan who comes on the line to say: “Our leader (Velupillai Prabhakaran) is still with us. He is with the public. He is giving leadership to our freedom struggle…etc.” That is fair enough to put the picture right about the whereabouts of Prabhakaran. The BBC lending its authority to confirm that the “Sun God” is still there to fight is newsworthy enough even though it can only lead to more death and destruction. However, Morris does not ask Nadesan whether there is a purpose in fighting now. He obviously likes to believe -- and he states so in his conclusion -- that the Tigers could still stage a come backs as they have done in the past even though the Tigers are now fighting for their lives after 25 years of fighting.

That apart, Morris, who is most concerned about the loss of lives in the war, does not ask Nadesan why Prabhakaran is refusing to let the civilians go to safety zones opened up by the government. Isn’t that the obvious question to ask if he is bent on saving lives?

In contrast consider the response of Bishop Thomas Savundranayagam of Jaffna who is more informed than Morris on the plight of the Tamils. He has categorically told the Tamil Tigers “not to station themselves among the people in the safety zone and fire their artillery-shells and rockets at the Army. This will only increase more and more the death of civilians thus endangering the safety of the people.” Bishop Savundranayagam is focusing on the criminal tactic of the Tigers to place themselves among the civilians and fire to deliberately draw fire from the forces that would either kill or injure the civilians. How come Morris didn’t know this? If he didn’t know this he shouldn’t be working for BBC. He should be working for TamilNet, or driving a “put-put” in Colombo. They are more informed than Chris Morris who is supposed to have an honours degree in history from Cambridge. Or is it that he didn’t want to know because the blame for the killing of civilians would be on the Tamil Tigers and not on the Sri Lankan Forces as he makes out to be?

Bishop Savundranayagam is not an agent of the government. In fact, he knows what is happening to his people because his priests who work among them report to him on the prevailing conditions. Though Morris blames the government for controlling the flow of information the authentic news coming from the Churchmen working with the Tamil people paint a different picture. The reports point a finger at the Tamil Tigers. The UN reports too have slammed the Tigers for not letting the UN workers go. The UNHCR and the Under Secretary for Children in Armed Conflict too have urged the Tigers to release the children.

Chris Morris goes to Sri Lanka and acts like the proverbial Chinese monkey: sees no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil! He has wasted BBC time and money to produce a cock-eyed version of events that runs contrary to the prevailing realities.

Bishop Savundranayagam, for instance, states unequivocally: “We are not against the war but our priority is the safety of every innocent civilian in those areas of war." The lives of civilians cannot be safeguarded if Prabhakaran does not allow the Tamil children and Tamil civilians to go to safety zones. When Chris Morris skips this salient issue concerning the lives of innocent Tamils caught in the war he becomes a part of the crime to cover-up this inhuman act of Prabhakaran. This aspect was well known and he should have picked it up even if he did not get it from the mouth of Bishop Savundranayagam.

Besides, there are reports in BBC website of how Tamils escaping Prabhakaran’s gulag are shot by Tiger cadres. Kantharubi Sivanathan, 28, mother-of-two, Paranthan, has told her story on the BBC website of how a group of 58 trying to cross over the safety zone of the army were shot in the night. Chris Morris is supposed to be from the BBC which is expected to maintain high standards in reporting objectively. When it is there in black and white in his own website how come Chris Morris missed it?

Is this the kind of impartiality and objectivity that BBC crows about it? When will Chris Morris start producing more credible stories that will remove the BBC being labeled as the British Bulldust Corporation?
- Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

David said...

Quite frankly, I don't get your point. The BBC's overall coverage of this conflict/uprising/war of independence (depending on your viewpoint) has been neutral and balanced.

To require that every single report mentions that people on both sides are dying, or that the Tigers say the civilians are with them while the SL government say they are hostages, is ludicrous and not possible in a short broadcast news report. It's easier to do this in print and online.

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