The Channel 4 canard
Posted on September 3rd, 2009

The Channel 4, a British TV channel apparently engaged in a deliberate propaganda campaign against Sri Lankan citizens, has come up with its latest canard about the island nation. A video footage of very poor quality showing two persons clad in combat uniforms shooting down two others has been given a huge publicity by the Channel 4 TV claiming it to be of Sri Lankan soldiers “summarily executing Tamils”.

The channel’s so-called “foreign affairs correspondent”, Jonathan Miller filing another twisted story of his about Sri Lanka, almost wows that it was “Sinhalaese” soldiers killing Tamils in the video. He further goes on breaching all rules observed in professional journalism by generalizing charges against one ethnic group of a multi-ethnic country; an obvious and irresponsible attempt to incite communal hatred. Shrewdly playing with his words this journalist not only conceals the serious question about the authenticity of the video footage but also brings about unnamed sources to support his mean objective of damaging ethnic harmony in Sri Lanka.

The following report is filed based on an analysis conducted by the team involving specialists in the filed on the video itself and commentaries about it. ( Click to view Technical Analysis Report )

Professional journalism requires journalists to ensure the information he or she disseminates to be fair and accurate. Fulfilling this requires the journalist to avoid expressing comments and conjecture as actual facts.

Miller opens his story about the video calling the victory over terrorism in Sri Lanka is something to be celebrated only by the Sinhalese majority, which is certainly not the ground reality. It is interesting to know how a foreigner like Miller could make such a serious comment about the thinking of Sri Lankan people. Then he goes on saying that it has been a “brutal war” in which “unknown thousands of Tamil civilians were killed”, yet fails to elaborate any source where his comments can be referred. Then comes a carefully edited video footage released by the LTTE propaganda arm during the wartime. At the end of this section Miller says, “now, we know one soldier had a mobile phone”; an obvious attempt to conceal the problem of authenticity of the video to the audience.

Then comes the scene of a man wearing an olive-green overall shooting a naked and loosely blindfolded man with his hands tied behind his back. The victim is shot at point blank range at the back of the head. Then the one with the camera turns at several other males lying on the ground apparently dead. The 1:02.781 (minute) video footage ends showing another man shooting the second blindfolded man in the same fashion as the earlier one. The only difference was the shooter was clad in a camouflaged combat uniform. Throughout the video, several men were heard shouting in Sinhalese and thundering blasts were clearly heard in the background as if the video was taken under heavy fire.

The pictures of the video footage were in very bad quality that there was no visible evidence whether the victims were actually injured in shooting. Also, the shooters were clad in combat clothes generally worn by all armies in the world. No Sri Lankan army insignias or anything such items were captured in the video to identify the shooters with the Sri Lanka army. Although the video footage seemed to have been taken with great deliberation to show what had happened at the location, the person who took it avoids directing the camera towards the shooters’ faces. The voices heard in the background gives no clue about shooters or the victims. Furthermore, it is quite clear that the cameraperson was doing his work quite freely and openly without any objections from those who were committing the crime, as if they wanted him/her to carryout the work unhindered.

Irrespective of all mentioned above, Miller speculates that a “soldier” not shown in the video jumped with joy at the first shooting. Then he confirms that that a shooter was a “Sinhalese country boy”. What’s more, Miller says to the audience that the killing Tamils were like a game to the “Sinhalese Soldiers”. It is only after speculating on all these that Miller decides to tell his audience that there is no independent authentication about the video.

However, he officiously tell the audience the group that claimed have handed over the video to him is not a “Tamil liberation organization” but a group of journalists in ‘exile’ fighting for media freedom. Moreover, he has found an unknown independent human right expert a “Sinhalese” to confirm him that video to be genuine. The whole episode if analyzed in the rational mind is an excellent example of deceitful journalism of the first degree. Miller closed his story creating disbelief in the audience that Tamils will be able to live peacefully with the other communities in the Island.

It is clear to any right minded person that it would not take much time for Sri Lankan defence officials to decide that the information in the video footage was insufficient for any further investigations. In fact, it is understandable that the aim of its originators was not to bring justice to the apparent victims shown in the video but to rekindle the dangerous ideology that gave life to the LTTE terrorists for decades. The government has rightly denied any breach of international law of war by Sri Lankan armed forces. Having painfully learnt the capacity of the LTTE propaganda arm – the only element of the terrorist outfit that still remains intact, the government has substantial evidence to prove that the video was a fake.

On the other hand, there is more than sufficient evidence that LTTE cadres masquerading in army uniforms had carried out crimes and used videos of such crimes to win international sympathy. Many LTTE cadres surrendered to the army have confessed to be involved in such crimes where they were asked to kill captives, mostly Tamils who were labeled as traitors. Civilians too have revealed seeing such videos showed by the LTTE cadres when they were held as a human shield by the LTTE. It was a commonly known tactic used by the LTTE to prevent civilians seeking refuge with the armed forces.

However, Miller’s reportage on the video and the commentaries of the LTTE sympathizers that followed, attempt to generalize the accusations against the government and armed forces as whole. It should be noted that Sri Lankan armed forces have given refuge to thousands of LTTE cadres including over 120 senior leaders of the outfit. The parents of the LTTE chief himself and his mother in law were also among the rescued during the final phase of the conflict. If Sri Lanka adapted summary execution of LTTE cadres as a policy, none of the LTTE cadres would be left and there would be ample videos available for media when considering the strength of the LTTE propaganda arm.

Above all, there exists serious suspicion about the integrity of the parties involved in propagating this video. The group claimed to have smuggled the video out of the Island, the so-called Journalist for Democracy (JDS) is an unheard media rights group in Sri Lanka of which no details can be found about its members. The group apparently runs an internet blog that contains propaganda material usually used by LTTE lobbyists but does not give any information about the personnel involved. However, available sources confirmed that the members of this group to be LTTE hired hands and some are even wanted terrorists under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Sri Lanka. Hence, there are valid reasons to the group to be in self-exile, allegedly leading the struggle for media freedom.

The Channel 4 too has a history of broadcasting distorted and misleading news about Sri Lanka. Specially, Jonathan Miller is doing his best to settle what appears to be a personal grudge he has with Sri Lankan people at the expense of his professionalism. It is interesting to watch how Miller has filed stories about Gaza and Iraq. There are few that can be easily goggled.

Even his story about Gaza after 22 days of bombing by the Israel in February was free from adjectives he often uses in his stories about Sri Lanka. He saw no “brutalism” in the bombing that many reliably claimed to have killed over thousand civilians including some 400 children, he found no “brutalized” people there. Moreover, it was not “shocking” for him to see the UN headquarters in Gaza bombed with white phosphorus. Nothing is “callous” or “sickening” about conflicts in Iraq, Gaza or in Afghanistan for Miller or for the Channel 4. This hypocrisy is of course common to many other similar media and is no longer a secret to the world.

It should be noted that it was this Miller who boastfully claimed the credit for having the first “face to face” interview with Interpol’s wanted terrorist Kumaran Padmanadan alias KP few months ago. Unfortunately for Miller, the criminal that he ridiculed Sri Lankan government for being unable to nab for 25 years is now with Defence Ministry. KP is certainly spilling the beans and has given a very important place to the Channel 4 affair and Miller connection in his confessions. Though not much information on this is permitted to be revealed at this stage, it can be said with great responsibility that LTTE had made Channel 4 one of its propaganda allies.

Finally, the whole affair about the video indicates nothing but the dearth of genuineness on the part of the human rights activists in Sri Lanka. Jonathan Miller is certainly an unknown figure to Sri Lankans despite his pretence as an expert in Sri Lanka’s affairs. Yet, the people who feed information to Miller, the so-called Sri Lankan rights activists, are well known to all discernible citizens here. Portraying these individuals as rights activists before ordinary Sri Lankan citizens is certainly a laughable matter for everyone knows that it is just a good business for them.

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