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Are some foreign correspondents and journos on fellowships inadvertently spying for interested states?

 Journalists in bygone days were revered. Sadly latter-day journalists have succumbed to profiteering through their close encounters with the powers which give them leverage to hold them ransom to the detriment of sacrificing national security and patriotism for their own narrow selfish interests.

by Pearl Thevanayagam

(November 06, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Particularly since 1983 Indian media organizations had at least five correspondents posted to Colombo permanently. Following press briefings their reports hardly ever reflected the very serious and intrusive questions they asked. I once asked a correspondent for Hindustani Times why he never published anything which transpired at the cabinet press briefings. His reply was that he kept the information for future reference.

The correspondents and their families live in posh residential areas in Colombo educating their children at international schools. Their media houses pay them to do so and I n some cases the Government of India also purportedly pays their expenses. There were rumours doing the rounds in the city among jealous local journalists that all of the Indian journalists were trained by RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) the reason why they ask sophisticated questions regarding national security, international politics and global business.

When I was offered a journalism fellowship at UC Berkeley in California by the Asia Foundation in the early nineties someone whispered that Asia Foundation has connection with the CIA. On my return I decided to interview the director of Asia Foundation and he admitted that it used to be the cultural wing of the CIA but then it became an autonomous body.

I am in no way stating that institutions which offer scholarships and fellowships have ulterior motives at all times. Many of our journalists who returned to their countries have gone on to become responsible editors and heads of media organizations after honing their skills and widening their experience. And countries like Japan, US, UK, Canada, Sweden and Germany continue to offer journalists in the developing world opportunity to expand their knowledge and provide suitable academic environment and ample resources to do so which their own media organizations can ill-afford.

The knowledge I gained in the short period I was at Berkeley still stands me in good stead and I was given opportunities such as work experience at the Wall Street Journal in Washington, attending Senate hearings in Capitol Hill, meeting the Malaysian economist Martin Kohr and George Schultz, former US Secretary of State.

During their studies abroad journalists are often asked to present papers at symposia, provided opportunities to speak to world leaders and basically given right royal treatment during their sojourn. It takes intelligence and inquisitiveness along with patriotism to deflect intrusive questions by those who try to bait them into imparting sensitive information which could be detrimental to our country’s interest and national security.

As the saying goes there is no such thing as free lunch. Lord Haw Haw was the pseudonym given to various English speaking broadcasters working for German Broadcasting station during the Second World War thus propagating peace moves to deflect Nazi invasions and keeping its name intact. In all cases the broadcasters were enthused by greed and monetary perks. But in doing so Lord Haw Haw also became popular in that they provided information on the casualties of the allied forces allowing the relatives to trace them.

There is a very fine thin blue line in media ethics between how journalists should tell the truth unbiased and the need to protect national security and interests. And it is incumbent on them to discern what needs to reported for the benefit of their readers and audience and what needs to be left out so as not to allow vested interests to exploit situations for their own selfish purposes.

There is no way the journalists should genuflect over powers which chooses to exercise media laws in the name of PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) to suppress violations of human rights which our successive governments have manipulated through intimidation, arrest and murders of dissenters who did not toe the government line.

But there is the responsibility of our media to discern when our national interests are at stake. The dis-information counsellors who were posted in various diplomatic missions should be carefully monitored as to whether they are acting on national interest or their own selfish motives.

My interaction with these dis-information counsellors have been that they are purely motivated by selfish motives. National pride and allegiance to their country takes backseat to their own interests.

Why the government spends money which should have been spent for internal development to trust these moronic individuals in beyond comprehension.

Journalists in bygone days were revered. Sadly latter-day journalists have succumbed to profiteering through their close encounters with the powers which give them leverage to hold them ransom to the detriment of sacrificing national security and patriotism for their own narrow selfish interests.

What is at stake is our island’s independence from foreign meddling. As long as we have traitors be they journalists or politicians in the opposition the government would enact laws to modify and change laws which could overtly or covertly encourage authoritarianism in the name of serving the best interest of a democracy we want to espouse.

Journalists should remain the beacon of just governance and uphold all that is true and just for the sake of preserving a united island devoid of class, ethnics and religious divide. Only then would we become a nation befitting a decent democracy.

RELATED ARTICLE: Ethics in reporting and Sri Lankan media bias

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