Press Complaints Commission : Buddhism Bashing in Newspapers in Sri Lanka
Posted on June 24th, 2014

Shenali D Waduge

The Chairman
Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka

Re. Buddhism Bashing in Newspapers in Sri Lanka  

I am writing to draw the attention of the Press Complaints Commission in the light of its own declared Code of Professional Practice for Sri Lankan media. A content analysis will reveal the derogatory nature of efforts to subterfuge the Buddhist foundation and identity of Sri Lanka and dilute its influence amongst policy and governance. In reading various print and online publications with media being used as a vehicle for this derogatory exercise it compels me to bring this to the attention of the Commission to investigate.

As example of the argument being made I wish to draw attention to 2 articles appearing in the Sunday Island of 26th April 2014 and 3rd May 2014 carrying the title ‘Saving Sri Lanka from the Monkish Terror’ and ‘Why Gnanasara has to be dealt with’ both written under the name ‘political watch’.

Links to both articles

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=102281

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=102690

The 1st article held no punches and the bashing of Buddhist monks with name calling was shocking to say the least. Buddhist monks were referred to as ‘mob of monks’, ‘marauding monks’, ‘monkish terror’ ‘monkish violence….represents evil incarnate’… ‘thug monks’, ‘these are the modern day Devadattas and Buddarakkithas who are out to destroy Buddhism’….‘delegation of saffron robed horrors’ ‘most revolting of all is the capitulation of the Mahanayake of the Malwatte chapter in the face of this unprecedented monkish thuggery’, ‘saffron robed barbarians’. The Malwatte Mahanayake is accused of ‘limp acquiescence’ and accused of turning himself ‘into a cipher’, ‘bhikku death squads’ ‘monkish anarchy’ and alleging that these Kudahapola balakaya have now become chief monks of their temples in an effort to align the monks being accused of ‘horrors’ as those that took part during JVP uprising. Does this not connote to inciting hate speech or is it only Buddhists who are to be guilty of hate speech?

While this is not the only article that has shown scant regard for the sensitivities of Buddhists, it made me to wonder whether Vatican City would allow the Pope to be accused of ‘limp acquiescence’ or found guilty of turning himself ‘into a cipher’. Would any Muslim country allow a single print or online publication to refer to the Prophet by any such names? Would these writers dare to use derogatory terms writing in these countries?

Suppression of Buddhist opinion and denial of right of reply to Buddhists

Buddhist opinion is generally suppressed in mainstream English language newspapers. Buddhists are not allowed to become opinion makers on critical political or economic issues. There is a disproportionate influence wielded by non – Buddhists in opinion making via the courtesy of the local mass media. This is in contrast to the position prevailing in European or Muslim countries where non – Christians or non – Muslims respectively will not be allowed to become opinion makers or be recognised as public intellectuals.

In the few occasions Buddhist views are published, the Buddhist writers have always stuck to the core issues while not name calling but the response has always been to evade responding to allegations by resorting to name calling as is currently happening. Newspapers are reluctant to give Buddhists a right of reply thus denying them the chance to respond to the accusations and denigrations being made.

Therefore, my question to the Press Complaints Commission is what is its stand on the threesome – the editor, newspaper owner and the journalist who play a key role in determining what the reader perceives given that back to back articles against Buddhism has found new scope wherein even authorities are reluctant to take a stand because these new incursions are silenced by other means and a Government grappling to survive does not know which way to turn.

My question to the Sri Lankan Government is what is its position when it is Constitutionally beholden to Protect and Foster Buddhism by virtue of Article 9 of the Constitution giving Buddhism a place above all other religions in Sri Lanka whilst not discriminating other religions.

No one can argue against the fact that the civilization of Sri Lanka was built by the sweat of largely Sinhala Buddhists and other ethnic groups/religions came far later. Simply because the populace of Sri Lanka is today ‘multi-ethnic’ Sri Lanka cannot be asked to turn its back on its historical past, feel proud of that past or make references to that past.

Many Buddhists, myself included by virtue of Buddhist teachings are taught to think for themselves. Our religion does not indoctrinate us and brainwash our minds into thinking on one aspect alone. We do not submit ourselves blindly.

As for the behavior of the said monk there may be a point that he should be advised to improve upon, however the content of what he says is what has opened the minds of many. There are issues he brought out that people did not know about and people have begun to look at these issued. People want to know what is going on in Wilpattu, why new components such as Halal, Shariah etc should suddenly become applicable to all, people are wondering who is sponsoring poor and middle class Muslims to wear the black hijab, who are sponsoring the madrassas and mosques  that are increasing by the day and with it the screaming sounds of the Mosque loudspeakers calling Muslims to prayer oblivious to the disturbance caused to the non- Muslims, and why loudspeakers are still being allowed to be used at Mosques despite a Supreme Court ruling severely restricting their use and Government going out of the way to allow the broadcast of the Azan on national radio channels thus inconveniencing non – Muslim listeners, and why Muslims after self-segregating themselves complain that they are being isolated.

Returning to the article, it is aiming to portray a scenario that the minorities are living in fear. Being a member of the majority populace and the ground realities that prevails when even the Chief Minister of the North declares Sinhalese are not welcome the contention that minorities are targeted is a bit farfetched especially when Buddhists are minorities in the capital Colombo and economically too majority Buddhists are comparatively less privileged than the minorities. Nevertheless, the mischief such notions cause lead to de-stabilization of society and in turn help the scheming external forces fishing for trouble to strike gold and with money ready to be poured in towards any initiative. What needs to be reiterated is that the newspapers have become part of the problem in pitching communities against the other by virtue of what they report and the manner that newspapers make sure only one point of view is relayed thus denying the other side of the story.

It is unfair to place ONLY Buddhists on the dock, and point the fault ONLY at Buddhists. Buddhists bashing has reached a level beyond tolerance, it is now time that those tasked to take action look at issue in a pragmatic way. Buddhists always welcome discourse and it may be a good start to perhaps first answer some of the existential fears that are affecting the Sinhalese Buddhists. Why has the newspapers not given publicity to a single Buddhist grievance?

The country was built up by the toil of their ancestors, they fought and died to save their nation, that feat was repeated throughout the LTTE terror reign. What everyone misses at all junctures is that the Sri Lanka Armed Forces that saved the country and the Buddhist monks (whether people like it or not) are a key part of the identity of Sri Lanka and all come from the same mostly rural stock and find their roots to Buddhist families and it was the same two entities that stood up to the colonial invaders, fought and gave up their lives to fight for the country while a handful of treacherous elements among the Sinhalese and Tamils chose to change their religion for mostly pecuniary benefits and fight along side the foreign invaders and country’s enemies against their own people. These modern – day lascoreens, also called Rice Christians in former times ( and identified as ‘Quislings’ in Europe), are the locals now tapped to carry out the division and dissent amongst the communities through various programs being sponsored and manipulated from overseas, and write articles denigrating Buddhism, Buddhists and Sri Lanka, using the hackneyed rhetoric of ‘ Human Rights’ and ‘Rule of Law’.

How far will a proposal to the Government to ‘crackdown on these madmen’ ‘rampaging monks’ ‘monkish fanatics’ ‘crackdown on religious extremism’ be entertained if the argument is that ONLY BUDDHISTS ARE EXTREMISTS and the others are not?.

It is unfortunate that Buddhist clergy find themselves fallen into the trap in their own quest to bring some home truths to the people because the easy way to evade discussion of substantial issues has been to quickly build up a social media propaganda denigrating the Buddhists so that the voices from all corners will silence the Government into inaction and help divide the Buddhist votes at election.

Buddhists have limited funds to project their grievances

Politicians are numbed into inaction because minorities are able to source money from their religious head offices overseas and foreign governments while Buddhists have only the Buddhist expats to reach out to. Buddhist nations have yet to develop an effective mechanism to help save a Buddhist nation or Buddhist communities in danger.

The findings of the Press Commission Report of 1964 under Justice K.D. de Silva that the mainstream press constantly attacked Buddhists will undoubtedly be proved when the Press Complaints Commission carries out an impartial, unbiased content analysis of opinion generated in the media relating to Buddhism and the conduct of Buddhists including monks.

What role does the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka play?

The Code of Professional Practice is binding on newspapers, publishing companies, editors and their journalists and contributors both in print format and online. The Sri Lankan Press can be free only if it is also responsible and sensitive to the readers – this is what the preamble of the Code declares.

In the above article in question the argument rests on how far ‘due consideration’ has been given to the views of others to reflect social responsibility? The examples of name calling used in the article are such that it has hurt almost 2/3 of the Sri Lankan population.

The continued bashing of Buddhists i.e. both laymen and monks is emotionally painful and the sensitivity of the continued usage of terminologies often used against terrorists has been completely ignored especially by the editor who has approved it for print and publication as a key article.

The Buddhists can for themselves decide who they respect and who they do not. Does this not violate the 6.3 of the code : a journalist shall not knowingly or willfully promote communal or religious discord or violence. The conclusion of the article declares ‘As of now, the Bodu Bala Sena is killing the govt. with small incremental doses of arsenic. We saw them carrying out three operations in quick succession last week. Now they will stop for a while so that the government will hope that the spate of incidents has died down. The government will refrain from prosecuting the BBS for the earlier incidents in the belief that prosecution will cause unnecessary ‘provocation’ and they will adopt a policy of letting sleeping dogs sleep. After getting off scot free for offenses committed earlier, the BBS will then start again. Thus the impression in the country that the government has lost control of things will be reinforced. The danger is that the BBS could be aiming for something really big, like provoking a fight between Buddhist monks and Muslims so that the whole country goes up in smoke in a Sinhala-Muslim riot. This is why the govt. must not hesitate to crack down on these madmen now.

The newspaper is also violating 6.4 of the Code : The Press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person’s race, color, religion, sex or to any physical or mental illness or disability’. The Buddhist bashing theme across tri-lingual newspapers needs to stop.

The public interest nature of the article in question and the proposal being made requires the Press Complaints Commission to conduct an immediate inquiry and take appropriate action without delay for denigrating and ridiculing Buddhism and the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka, and in turn violating the Code of Professional Practice for Sri Lankan media.

Shenali D Waduge

10 Responses to “Press Complaints Commission : Buddhism Bashing in Newspapers in Sri Lanka”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    This newspaper group, just like the Lakehouse Group is now in the hand of Non Buddhists. The editor of Isalnd should be rabid Buddhist hater to allow the publication of such articles in the Island Newspaper.

    Although the originators of both groups were D R Wijewardhana and Upali Wijewardhana – ardent Buddhits, now both these establishments are under the influence of Non Buddhists. One can see how they slant every news item to the detriment of the Buddhists. Now they have become even more arrogant to be disrespectful to the Maha Sangha and to Buddhism without a care. They know they are protected by the establishment to the hilt. The rot has set in because Buddhists have been sleeping.

    It is time to wake up the injustices carried out against Buddhists in Sri Lanka. It looks like the President too has become and Interfaith convert. He fails to identify who are the cobras and vipers among those he tries to befriend. He has forgotten that he owes his presidency to the Sinhala Buddhists nurtured by Soma Hamuduruwo. It is they who provided the manpower to win the war. It is they who voted him to power – not the Christians – not the Muslims. He will forget this truth to his detriment and he will suffer its consequences soon!

  2. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    There is another issue the Sri Lanka has been plagued. No other nation has faced such a long period of negative and down right hateful language stitched into Hinduism. I cut and paste my comment from the Times of India on an article titled “Sri Lanka police strike back after media flack over deadly riots”

    One more issue that has impacted Sri Lanka and it is her history. It is known to the Indian populace that the Sinhalese people are the result of Prince Vijaya and his 7 hundred followers. Prince Vijaya was banished by his father from North East India. He then sailed to Sri Lanka with 7 hundred followers and established the Sinhalese people through marriage with a local queen. Other accounts state he married a Princess from Madurai. The point is that he was banished from (HIndu) India. That is often brought up to denigrate the Sinhalese people. What is even worse is the Indian epic the Ramayana written by Valmiki which singles out Sri Lanka as the abode of the Demon King Ravana and the nemesis to the Hindu god Rama. As the Epic goes Ravana abducts Goddess Sita, Lord Rama’s consort and takes her to “Sri Lanka”, holding her by force. This too has been often used by Indian commenters to justify the “barbarism inherent” in the modern Sinhalese people. No nation on this earth as been demonized for so long by so many with no real intention of malice yet the effect is the same.

    Sri Lanka in the eyes of so many Hindu children is seen on a yearly basis as the land of Ravana, the evil Demon who abducted the lovely Goddess Sita. This is most poignant as the “Ayodhya” issue which ended up in the demolition of an unused (Babri) Masjid by Hindu extremists (or as they are labeled by the media) wanted to reconstruct a Temple to Lord Rama in what they claim is the birthplace of that God. By doing so it gives even greater importance to the Ramayana and the role Sri Lanka played in that epic. The epic does not target the Sri Lankan Tamils who are considered “brothers” of India but the Sinhalese who are not considered “brothers” of India or anyone but the decedents of that “evil” demon Ravana.

    In the eyes of many Hindus in India the Sinhalese people are the byproducts of a banished prince and the descendants of an evil Demon king Ravana. Be by history or by religion Hindu India has “banished” the Sinhalese people as effectively as she banishes the pariahs of her caste system. In this light Sinhalese Buddhists do not have any redeeming qualities because they cannot have any. Considering that Prince Vijaya left India around 500 BC and the Ramayana was written a few centuries later, Sinhalese have been visualized by countless Indian Hindu generations as vile at best. That biased opinion has then been propagated throughout the world to whoever finds the Ramayana a work worthy of reading. That is why the Sinhalese have to rebuke India and the world when it comes to defending the Sinhalese Buddhist culture.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    Not just media. Look at the supreme court. MOST SC judges are non Buddhists in a country Buddhists are 70%.

    This is a JOKE.

    Imagine what the media + SC can do. ALL of them appointed by MR.

  4. Nanda Says:

    MR is now yielding a bit. Why ? Just because of election looming ? Why did he create all these trouble in the first place ?

  5. samurai Says:

    Self – regulation by the so – called free press has failed.
    The ‘free press’ is totally one sided. Anti – majority, Anti – Sinhala, Anti – Buddhist, Anti – National.
    Almost all the major political columnists of the ‘ free press’ are non – Buddhists.
    The demonisation of Sinhala Buddhists and Buddhism bashing is the major pastime of several Daily and Sunday Newspapers in the english language media.
    It is being done without any sense of shame and scruples on the presumption that whatever the magnitude of the denigration and demonisation of the Sinhala Buddhists using scribes belonging to minority ethnicities and religions, the writer and editor can always get away without fear of any accountability or liability because the Buddhist organisations, leaders and aggrieved parties hardly ever protest.
    This shameless conduct has gone on far too long.
    It also happened in a previous era. During the time of Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike as PM ( 1960 – 1965), there were brilliant Ministers like Felix R. Dias Bandaranaike, civil servants of the calibre of N.Q. Dias, outspoken Buddhist leaders like L.H. Mettananda, fearless Buddhist organisations such as the Bauddha Jatika Balavegaya ( BJB) and patriotic and national minded Judges such as Mr. Justice K.D. de Silva. They were able to check the abuse of the freedom of the press through a Press Commission appointed by Mrs. Bandaranaike in 1963, which delivered its interim and final Reports in 1964.
    Sri Lanka today is badly in need of another Press Commission to inquire into the anti – national and anti – Buddhist conduct of the mass media, particularly the opinion creating, communal minded and rabble rousing English language newspapers which is all directed against Sinhala Buddhists, particularly Buddhist monks, which almost all newspapers hold in utter contempt.

  6. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    The headlines should have defined Sri Lankan papers as “Secularist” in nature. The extreme condemnation of the Buddhist Sanga is both shocking and revealing. They see the Buddhist Sanga as a threat to the Secularists and their unabashed belief that the “majority is inherently bad because they are the majority and the minorities are inherently good because they are the minorities”.

    The majority Buddhists dare not defend their faith, should allow unfettered expansion of minority and alien faiths and should mind their own business till these minority faiths become the majority.

    The minorities must be protected at all costs regardless if they are doing harm to the Buddhist culture and any action or backlash from the majority will be vilified and no questions asked why there was even a backlash.

    The positive side of these negative reviews from the Secularist newspapers is that the “force” shown by the Buddhist Sanga and the Sinhalese nationalist movement may in fact prove to have positive results for Buddhism and negative results to Secularism (that always demands the separation of church and state..for the majority and the expansion of minority faiths at the expense of the majority faith)

    Every action the BBS has taken and WON, has been attacked mercilessly by the press. Be it the Wilpattu national park or the issue of Halal or the 13th amendment to the recent actions against Muslims due to the complete lack of any police or government actions against them, the Buddhist Sanga or to be specific the BBS is now news, and big news in Sri Lanka. That means the BBS and the Sinhalese nationalist movement is gaining traction and demanding the public to recognize what Colombo will not.

  7. Senevirath Says:

    even the Sinhala DIVAINA paper too had been grabbed by few anti Sinhala Buddhists When EDMUND RANASINHE was the chief editor it was the best paper and it was until recent past.. now there is one or two chaps writing against jathikavaadi ideas

  8. Marco Says:

    I’m sure the Press Complaints Commission will give it the due attention that this article/letter deserves.

    Having read both articles in the Island i don’t believe the author “political watcher” is far wrong.
    The Maha Sanga has a duty to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka and the criticism of it not to bring in line the “rogue thugish” monks is entirely justified.
    These “rogue” monks as evidence has shown has brought disrepute to Theravada Buddhism and Lord Buddha teachings.
    The Maha Sanga and the Malwatte Chapters have been dragging their feet in nipping it in the bud (Similar i suppose to the Pope with the “rogue” priests).
    There appears to be dithering in their decisions. As a most recent example being the night races in Kandy. For those of you in Sri Lanka will well understand what i mean. If the night races was wrong in the first place to be held within the vicinity of Sri Dalada Maligawa why allow it for one last time?

    It’s laughable to think that the Island and especially the Lakehouse Newspapers are anti-buddhist and are in the hands of non-buddhist.

  9. Senevirath Says:

    ALL BUDDHISTS KNOW WHAT IS PURE BUDDHA DHAMMA IS. ONLY FEW WITH “””paaramitha”” CAN GO IN THE CORRECT PATH EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW DHAMMA.
    BUT ALL THE OTHER BUDDHISTS HAVE TO SAFEGUARD THEIR BUDDHIST CULTURE AND BE IN THAT –LIVE IN THAT CULTURE UNTIL THEY CAN ENTER THE CORRECT PATH. FOR THEIR SURVIVAL THEY HAVE TO FIGHT WITH OTHER CULPRITS WHO COMES TO DESTROY BUDDHIST CULTURE

    POLITICAL WATCHER WANTS ALL BUDDHISTS TO SURRENDER TO THE ENEMY LIKE IT HAPPENED IN AFGANISTAN , INDONISIA ETC ETC. HE WILL NOT CLOSE HIS EYES AND GO TO SLEEP UNTIL IT HAPPENS . HE WILL GO ON DISCOURAGING SINHALA BUDDHISTS BUDDHIST FIGHTERS ARE THUGS AND ROGUE S FOR HIM AND . MUSLIM MURDERERS ARE SAINTS.

    SO FAR MORE THAN 270 MILLION HAVE BEEN KILLED BY MUSLIMS IN THE WORLD. SO DONT WE HAVE TO WORRY?
    SANGHA OPPPOSED NIGHT RACES BUT CONSIDERED THE APPEAL MADE BY ORGANIZERS WITH SYMPATHY WITHOUT ASKING THE POUND OF FLESH — FOR THE LAST TIME WE HAVE TOLERATED MUCH MORE THINGS IN THE PAST. SO THIS IS NOTHING MUCH

    SINHALESE SPECIALLY KANDIAN SINHALESE HAD TO TOLERAT E AND SYMPATHIES MUSLIMS WHO WERE FLEENG FROM PORTUGESE AND SETTLE THEM IN SAFE AREAS—— WE FOOLS NEVER THOUGHT THAT THOSE MUSLIMS WILL TRY TO DOMINATE US. THAT WAS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE WE DID… NO MORE NO MORE

    SORRY U ALL ARE DISAPPOINTED… GO ON WATCHING IF U WANT

  10. Ben Silva Says:

    Senevirath – The law of nature, never unproven is ‘survival of the fittest. This law is a fact and proven even using genetics. If the Sinhalese want to survive, we need to have the will to survive and aim to survive. We have to expect competition and learn how to beat competition and learn to face hardships in our struglge for survival. Only the fittest will survive. As we even defeated England, our teacher of cricket, we can survive, if we develop the will power. We have to be fair in dealing with people. Nalanda debacle shows what would happen if we are not prepared to fight for our rights. Defending the culture is fine, but I question the accuracy of ancient Undian myths. Buddha has said never follow things blindly.Just think for a moment how much we have already lost!

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