Wild-ass journalists and val-booru politicos
Posted on July 29th, 2016

By Sudat Pasqual -Courtesy The Nation

Freedom of the press can be harsh sometimes. It can be most hard on politicians with prickly skin. Time and again we come across champions of free expression and media freedom having second thoughts once they are caught in the glare of public scrutiny. Freedom of expression, especially when it is freely given to the media can be a frightening tool, especially at the hands of the cynical and the irascible.

Let me rephrase that last sentence. Freedom of expression in the form of a free press MUST be a frightening tool for those basking in the public limelight and feeding at the public trough. A free press will scrutinize the public officials; question their judgement; demand explanation for their actions; demand accountability; and if found wanting on any of the above; excoriate those officials. That is the public official. That is their duty of the media. It is not the job of a free media to filter the flow of information and spin that information to fit the image the government in power is keen to project to the public.

Public officials are accountable to the public. Public media, in most cases, will speak on behalf of that public. Public officials are answerable, you got it; to the public. The media when acting as the agent of the public does not need to answer public officials. The difference is the difference between a free society and a society under the jackboot of a despot.

Recently, President Sirisena called the segment of the media not so friendly to his regime wild asses. In his mind, this segment of the media is unfair and unreasonable in their coverage of his government and his governance.

At the outset, it should be highlighted that since becoming the President in January, 2015 Maithripala Sirisena has loosened the restrictions imposed on the media by his predecessor. There is absolutely no doubt that the Sri Lankan media is a heck of a lot freer today than it was during the 9-year tenure of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Hats off to Sirisena for bringing about this change.

Having acceded that to the President, his recent wild ass remarks do raise the question whether Sirisena is having second thoughts about his commitment to a press unhampered by the ham hand of the central government. Sirisena is a seasoned politician with over four decades of experience in the art of the possible. Sirisena and his local and foreign friends jumped on the free media band wagon when they took on the incumbent Rajapaksa at the last Presidential election.

They rode that wagon to the ground and it would not be an exaggeration to say that Sirisena-friendly/anti-Rajapaksa media organizations played a key hand in toppling Mahinda Rajapaksa The same media was relentless in attacking the incumbent and was adamant that every conceivable conspiracy, corrupt act, real and imagined breaking of the law during the Rajapaksa tenure was force fed to an eager public.

Even after Sirisena’s election, the relentless pursuit of Mahinda Rajapaksa, his friends and family members continued. Some of the wildest accusations came from members of Sirisena’s cabinet. In spite of the obvious spuriousness of the claims, they made the headlines and in many a case got extended coverage.

The recent UN report on Sri Lanka also highlighted the selectiveness of the government to make public information that would cast serious doubt on the 40,000 odd deaths during the last phase of the war against the LTTE. The head of the local commissions that dwelled into the matter was quite clear in his assessment that the 40,000 figure was a gross exaggeration. He said the figure was more likely around 7,000. However, this never got much traction or was not allowed to get much traction because it did not fit into Sirisena regime’s path to truth and reconciliation. There is also the issue of guaranteeing public’s right to information that is of relevance to the polity. Now we are left to believe that cause was also a casualty of political expediency.

Reading the tea leaves of Sirisena’s threat to media freedom, for that is what it is, one gets the creepy feeling that he is more the political coyote than the Yahapalakaya he says he is.

All politicians who come across power riding the high horse of free speech, media freedom and other human rights must accept that those rights are absolute. They do have limits, but those limits cannot be dictated by presidential fiat or a prickly skin. When the media gets under President Sirisena’s skin, they are doing their job well. It is the duty of the media to hold the feet of public officials to the fire till they can do no harm to what is public. There is nothing more treasonous than a media fawning over public officials and eternally singing hosannas to them.

The public is better served by wild-ass journalists than political wal-buruwas.

4 Responses to “Wild-ass journalists and val-booru politicos”

  1. anura seneviratna Says:

    Great expression of unbiased truth on public, media and government as long as the often heard heavily bought over SL media can muster the courage, esteem and refinement of their service sustaining impartiality. Media is the most powerful tool of the west as it can make the untruth stand on stilts to dominate, subjugate and brainwash the public. Wishing SL media can pioneer the noble stance that media must maintain in delivering their profound service to the nation.

  2. AnuD Says:

    There is no absolute press freedom even in the so-called deomocratic countries in the west. It is relative. IT depends on the issues.

    Journalists can dig or ciriticize every thing. In that sense, both the sri lankan govt as well journalists are very naive or irresponsible.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Well stated, Sunil Pasqual. Thank you.

    ———-

    Some comments :

    Media freedom : It depends on who owns that particular media. The bias of the owner, the bias of the journalist seeps through into articles. To get at the truth, one may have to read many articles on the subject and also use one’s own judgment on the matter.

    ‘Red herring’ politics could be drawn by some bought media to cover up for booru political blunders and their even more booru aspirations !

    The Reader must be watchful, careful, always.

    ———

    Also, we think that the MR govt had to have a strict media policy during and after the final conflict (see how careful we have to not say it was a ‘war’ as that might bring in the wrong impression internationally, which may be harmful to Lanka !).

    It is the ongoing conflict with the Tamil Separatist movement which started in the 1930s and continuing with the VADUKODDAI RESOLUTION OF 1976, and on to the 1983 trumped up Riots and mass emigration of ‘Tamil Refugees’ thereafter (no other way to enter the west) and the creation of the Tamil Diaspora that has caused all the international troubles for the past MR govt. and this fact is exploited by the booru politicos in Yahap. Yahap is using ‘divide & rule’ of the Sinhala people – at this point in time, it is self destructive to the Sinhala people, to the delight of those who want to splinter the country.

    There is no doubt that the Tamil people aspire to progress further in the socio-economic affairs in Lanka & elsewhere, but so can the Sinhala people, who are never allowed to progress in their own Motherland, Sri Lanka.

    The greatest INJUSTICES IN LANKA are always toward THE SINHALA PEOPLE, IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY !

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Correction : read as Sudat Pasqual

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