Killing Fields: Threadbare Journalism on Display at Curtin University in Perth
Posted on November 14th, 2013

Dr D. Chandraratna

As recently as last month there were two instances in Australian Universities when academic freedom became mere sophistry and nonsense. In the first case, the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, an academic from Israel-â„¢s Hebrew University was refused permission to respond to a talk given by another academic who, according to the Jewish lobby in Sydney, blatantly misrepresented Israel-â„¢s position. The second instance was the screening of Killing Fields at Curtin University in Perth where the Sri Lankan community was refused a chance to present their side of the story to the viewing audience. The Vice Chancellor and the Head of Human Rights Centre refused our request citing the unhindered freedom of expression. Killing Fields is a documentary produced by bankrupt journalists looking to salvage their threadbare respectability by exploiting the freedom of expression to promote anti Sinhalese sentiments which are the antithesis of demands by the majority Sinhalese in Sri Lanka for coexistence and peace. Sri Lankans stand up for the humane treatment of all people and the current regime has safeguarded the rights of all by dismantling a marauding brutal terror outfit which held 22 million people hostage in that country for thirty years..

Both these instances highlight the lack of freedom to those who are misrepresented to put forward their case to the same audience who would otherwise be misinformed. The Universities need to recognize that in allowing anti state organizations to present their views without a critical perspective is only doing a disservice to those freedoms that they so fondly revere. The authorities ought to understand that there are no freedoms without limits and suppression of balanced debate will only erode the liberties that a University is committed to uphold. As a former academic at Curtin University I am saddened by the freedom given to screen such offensive unsubstantiated material to young students by merchants or their agents of terrorism. The purveyors of terror and their academic agents are a disgrace to the legacy of those who have adorned those academic positions in the past. The Vice Chancellor of Curtin University appears to have not understood that these events erode the good reputation of the University which promotes itself in Sri Lanka as the wonderful institution to which Sri Lankan students should come to experience a critical discourse. These actions do not justify such grandeur claims.

I believe that it is the responsibility of good journalism to check what they publish is truthful.‚ ‚  What we often see now is that the journalists depend for facts from advocates of varying causes with vested interests. Journo’s are under the misapprehension that -Ëœgood-â„¢ groups which profess attractive labels like human rights, environment and social justice are not misleading them. Inept journalists such as Callum Macrae may perhaps intentionally do so to arrest his diminishing respectability in the profession. There are activists of one sort or another who take cover under -Ëœgood-â„¢ labels and feed fabricated information. But it is up to ethical journalism to check for the accuracy of what is published. Sri Lanka is under attack from the left-over residue from its war. It is about time that as reading public we treat with skepticism the provenance of the facts supplied in the manner of Killing Fields against Sri Lanka. It has now come to light that many of these -Ëœgood-â„¢ groups are in the pocket of various interests who pull strings from behind. The environmental groups in Australia are used by the anti Sri Lankan elements through indirect bribery. The UN agencies are entrapped by various powerful groups who pay their salaries. The international game is up for sale to the highest bidder. If it was ethical journalism the producer of Killing Fields ought to have the decency to screen it with the caveat that the footage in the Killing Fields has not been independently verified. To do otherwise is threadbare journalism which in some respectable quarters is called gutter journalism. Only the bankrupt would stoop that low. Such low quality journalism cannot demand accountability from democratic governments and intelligent public should not be hoodwinked by many of the current breed of journalists, be they international or local.

The principal motive behind many of the news blogs is the destruction of the current regime in Sri Lanka. The irony of it all is that while these journalists and activists clamour for democratic governance they cannot abide by the democratic decision of the people who have immense faith in the current government despite all its failings. That the news media is owned by some proprietors who have a feverish hatred for Mr. Rajapaksa is no secret.‚  By abandoning the search for truth or by farming it to other groups masquerading as ‘do-gooders’ the journalists have blighted the good name of the profession. The investigation, observation and reasoning, the ingredients of good journalism have been put out of the window. If we only remember Watergate, the two journalists who uncovered it, Woodward and Bernstein, relied on -Ëœdeep throat-â„¢ informants only to confirm what they had already unearthed and not vice versa. It took more than a year of forensic investigation before they uncovered the story. In comparison the charges against the Sri Lankan state and forces has been cooked up overnight and flashed across the international blogs. It is a crying shame that the European countries who profess higher standards from others do not subscribe to the same standards when they want to destroy some one else. For a country like UK to talk war crimes, surely is a fat joke if only they are aware of the past stories of Churchill or the present stories of Iraq. Afganistan and Egypt etc. Prime Minister Cameron guided by LTTE news blogs noted for -Ëœthe he said, she said, pick a box stuff-â„¢, is becoming tedious and uninformative. These politicians on the public payroll are not delivering the quality expected of them.‚ ‚ 

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