Of Scoops, Spooks, Stoops etc
Posted on June 16th, 2011

Dr Bandula Kothalawala London

The C4 “documentary” on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka telecast on 14 June 2011 has brought forth a great deal of comment from all quarters. C4 programmes are in general reflective of the abysmal depths into which the media in the UK has sunk in its sordid endeavours to increase circulation or audience. Dorothy Byrne, Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4, writing on the programme in the Independent (10 June 2011), warned people about watching the horrific scenes contained in it. “The images will remain in your mind, maybe, for years”, says Dorothy. I did not want these horrors to haunt the rest of my life, especially, as there is a strong likelihood of the footage being fake! I had, therefore, decided not to watch them at all. Incidentally, Dorothy’s manifestly disingenuous crude blurb is reminiscent of the ploy employed by producers of sexually explicit films of yesteryear who would hope against hope that the censors would come down hard on them.”Worst images are in the last part”, reassures Dorothy, ostensibly to warn vulnerable adults, but certainly to ensure that as many people as possible remain glued to it till the end. So much for integrity and work ethics at C4! It certainly gives an interesting insight into the mindset of those responsible for the programme.

C4 coverage of Sri Lanka

Since the expulsion of its reporters from Sri Lanka, C4 has been assiduous in its campaign of anti-Sri Lanka propaganda. It has been shamelessly scurrilous and relentlessly vindictive in its coverage of events in Sri Lanka and shown scant regard for honesty, objectivity and/or impartiality. The usual tricks of the trade have been used with wild abandon; statements from the SL Government or the Sri Lanka High Commission in London were suppressed or distorted and/or quoted out of context; news about the conflict was telecast with a liberal serving of its familiar stock-in-trade – library video footages of atrocities allegedly committed during the war as backdrop; opinions of Sri Lanka’s detractors were frequently sought and broadcast on a regular basis to give credence to the stories. Needless to say, occasional references to LTTE violence were introduced into the text almost as an afterthought, sometimes, interspersed with a few pictures to flavor the concoctions with “impartiality”. Following is only a sample of some C4 scoops.

In May 2009, following the release by the Sri Lankan Government of a photo of the corpse of Prabhakaran, Channel 4 used a photo doctored by the rump of the LTTE as backdrop to its interview with Mr K Padmanathan. In an apparent attempt to resurrect Prabhakaran, C4 had no scruples about making use of the material compiled by the LTTE to show their leader live and kicking, and smiling at his own corpse. Mr Padmanathan announced the death of the LTTE leader a few days later. C4 has not, as far as I know, made any apology for telecasting a fake photo. Neither did it show any interest in reporting on the revelations made by Mr Padmanathan on LTTE atrocities since he started spilling the beans.

C4 persistently claimed that they were showing the footage filmed by their “undercover” reporters smuggled into the conflict zone in the run up to the defeat of the terror outfit while gleefully dishing out news stories from pro-LTTE sources, spiced up with scenes from gory promotional videos made by the LTTE. On 22 May 2009 at 7.00pm News, someone, inadvertently, let the cat out of the bag and announced that their contact person who did not wish to surrender had committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule!

Few months later C4 started its “serialization” of “execution videos”, despite the serious doubts cast by some eminent experts on their authenticity. C4 has made a habit of telecasting by dribs and drabs summary executions which allegedly took place without providing any proof of their authenticity and disregarding glaring discrepancies. It even ignored the fact that there was clear mismatch of dates in a number of frames. Some were dated July 2009 while some others dated back to January 2009 whereas the alleged footages were said to have been made during the final days of the conflict.

C4 sounds adamant that 40,000 civilians were killed in the final days. (Please, read Dorothy’s article.) This reminds me of a similar claim made by another member of the confraternity. In December 1989, a newsreader on the venerable BBC, looking sombre for the occasion, announced that 60,000 people had been killed by Ceausescu’s security forces during the Romanian Revolution. Investigations carried out later concluded that 1,107 (far too many indeed) people had died – claim disputed by some journalists and scholars. As far as I know, neither the BBC nor any other media organisation which subsequently used the BBC story, made any apology for the blatant lies they deliberately propagated! Please, note that I am not attempting to defend the Ceausescu regime, but merely pointing to media excesses. Please, also, see A Pact with the Devil himself http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2009/05/30/a-pact-with-the-devil-himself/

Notorious Hoaxes

The media in the West, especially, those in the UK, vie with one another in a frenetic, ruthless scramble for scoops and would stoop to any tactics or subterfuge, as long as they could increase the circulation of their newspapers or the number of television viewers. In April 1983, the Sunday Times was to have serialized Hitler’s diaries, originally, “discovered” by the West German magazine Stern. As in the case of extra-judicial killings, the diaries were duly authenticated by a number of experts including Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre of Glanton), Regius Professor of Modern History and a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, in a preview prior to the date of serialization. Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper, after personally examining the diaries, wrote in the Times:

I am now satisfied that the documents are authentic; that the history of their wanderings since 1945 is true; and that the standard accounts of Hitler’s writing habits, of his personality and, even, perhaps, of some public events, may in consequence have to be revised.

Serious doubts had already been cast on the authenticity of the diaries when Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper pronounced himself on the issue. Incidentally, the learned Professor happened to be a director of the Times Newspapers at the time of the authentication! At least two other historians “”…” Gerhard Weinberg (Germany), David Irving (UK) – renowned for their expertise had “authenticated” them before it was proven beyond doubt that they were fakes!

In some instances, the sheer cunning, craftiness and skilfulness of fraudsters deceive experts. In 2007, a man pleaded guilty to the sale of a fake Egyptian statue to the Boston Council for £410,392. Some “experts” had authenticated it to be over 3,300 years old and recognized it as that of one of the daughters of Pharaoh Akhenaten (c.1350-1334 BC) and his queen, Nefertiti!  Some of the fakes had been in museums including the British Museum for years!

No fair-minded person will have any objections to the stories being properly investigated and the truth ascertained. As recently as two weeks ago, the Sri Lankan army offered to investigate any specific allegation against its soldiers and I do not see any reason why specific allegations based on credible evidence cannot or should not be thoroughly investigated by an appropriate local court. The alleged offenders should be brought to justice and, if found guilty, severely punished without delay. C4 and others who claim to have proof in their possession have so far contented themselves with making wild allegations. It is hard to understand why they are unable to provide detailed information on the locations, at least approximate time of events and the identity of the offenders or at least their regiment, and that of their victims, for they seem to have no doubts on the authenticity of the material. In a strange twist to the basic tenets of justice, Sri Lanka’s detractors have shifted the onus of proof to the Government of Sri Lanka. In other words, it is the Government of Sri Lanka that has to prove that its security forces were not involved in these “executions”.  If Sri Lanka’s critics had acted in good faith, they could have submitted the material to the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Of course, trial by media is no new phenomenon in the UK. It is ingrained in the media culture and the rewards are high for the practitioners. Curiously, it is the same crowd who shout loudest on the need to uphold the rule of law!

In sum, C4 and other critics need to provide credible evidence to prove their case against Sri Lanka’s armed forces. For the moment, the ghosts of the infamous NAZI propaganda team seem to have possessed them and be holding complete sway over them. Indeed, it is enough to make Joseph Goebbels, nay, his skull blush!

Dr Bandula Kothalawala


11 Responses to “Of Scoops, Spooks, Stoops etc”

  1. gdesilva Says:

    This is not a trial by C4 or other media – this is just a TRIAL BY THE CIA and paid handsomely by the CIA to media outlets such as C4. The puppet show is on…the CIA puppeteer is making the media, NGO, so-called human rights group dance to their tune and sadly the public watching the show is buying into it. How many Chiles, Vietnams, Koreas, Afghanistans, Iraqs, Pakistans, Libyas etc do we have to see before we open our eyes to the reality of murder, pillage and destruction of entire nations by the CIA??

  2. AnuD Says:

    I strongly believe that Tamils knew forthcoming deportation of hundreds of refugee claimants. So, they collected money and re – aired this video.

    For some one who followed the war from the beginning nothing in that video is new. There are some youtube clips and news reports which described how LTTE treated their own, prisoners of both the Tamil and Sinhala origins including those of POWs. They video thosed things no one knew for what reason what happened to those. Some were posted right away in the internet.

  3. samaraweera Says:

    Channel 4 has been heavily funded by the Tamil diaspora to screen this programme. The LTTE was barbaric and had torture chambers, cells etc., and executed Tamil dissidents as well as security force members surrendered. For eg., the 600 police personnel . So obviously the executions done by them are now shown as those of the security forces.

    Further, how many soldiers could afford or would carry a mobile phone with camera when they are fighting a battle risking their life?

    This is nothing but LTTE propaganda!


  4. andylingam Says:

    Channel 4 has been heavily funded by the Tamil diaspora ? No

    how many soldiers could afford or would carry a mobile phone ? Majority have (more than 505)

    This is nothing but LTTE propaganda ? Yes , this a tonic for Headless LTTE terraist in Western country , Last 2 years most of these theaves who collected money gone undreground(hidin) , Now There are in the flield & strat to collect money ( undial).

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    There is a big difference between ordinary mobile phones and Mobile CAMERA phones. Films can be made only from Mobile
    CAMERA phones.

    Mobile CAMERA phones at the time of the end of the war (March 2009) cost a lot of money ! We do not think any of the SL Army soldiers could have afforded such phones, even if they wanted to own one. So the claim that the filming was done by SL Army soldiers is not a valid one. CAMERA PHONE prices around March 2009 (as opposed to ordinary mobile phones), cost around US$200 (cheapest with poor images) to $900 – now, who is a the soldier could afford such an item ? !!

    The Ch.4 films are definitely a HOAX, a cut, add & superimposed film job done from already existing film from YouTube etc.

    A similar trick was done in the 1983 Riots. The claim that Tourists to Sri Lanka at that time had made video films of the Riots with hand held video cameras is invalid as Tourists at that time did not carry those massive cumbersome video cameras ! The lightweight hand held video cameras of today were not available then.

    However, some films of the 1983 Riots were indeed made (has to be with a readied heavy camera) and copies sent to Lakshmi Naganatha, Moorthy & Balachandran, who were Ambassadors from Sri Lanka in Bonn (Germany), London & Paris. These films were shown in the west, and as we all know, the Tamil Exodus to the west started after that and the vilification of Sri Lanka began after that too.

    So, folks, you know the recipe now : First, incite the majority community of Sinhalas or the Armed Forces to anger with demands for separatism etc., and when reactions follows, film them, and show the films in the west how barbaric the Sinhala people are !!

    We hasten to add that not all Tamil people are part of these plots. But as they say : “a drop of polluted matter can spoil an entire pot of pure water”.

    For the rest of us in Lanka, forewarned is forearmed.

  6. Leela Says:

    Sri Lanka government is denying all allegations levelled by channel 1V, Drusman report and elsewhere vehemently and oppose any inquires into it. China and Russia are backing Sri Lanka to the hilt. So, it is unlikely that the UN would ever take it up for debate let alone approve it. Since we do not have oil, the Anglo, French the US oligarchy will neither invade us like Iraq nor would they bomb us like Libya. They could only pester us at best. But they may not be able to use India as cat’s paw or as a pawn for Indians have their own house fires to deal with.

    In such circumstances, promoters of that video footing must not beat about the bush. They must prove their point with substantiated proof. LTTE rump has the money. They must pay up their bogey cameraman and get him in to open. They must get him to come out with the exact details of victims and culprits. They may hoard them into British High Commission here and start a scene as they did in the capital cities of some western countries sometime back. And the British may issue them with British passports and give them protection but they must list the victims and culprits. Otherwise, only the gullible minority in this country would believe real Sri Lankan soldiers are in that film. And we the majority would be more determined to back Rajapakses in spite of his many short comings.

  7. aravinda Says:

    There are hundreds lined up in Europe to be deported to Sri Lanka. Well, they are known as ECONOMIC REFUGEES.

    It was necessary, even in this late hour, to prevent these deportations. If UK wants to keep the LTTE rump, they are free to believe this CUT AND PASTE, DUBBED, EDITED AND MISLEADING C4 garbage and keep the LTTE rump. Good riddance of bad rubbish. Let peace loving people of Sri Lanka, of all races, religions and strata, live in peace. Rajiv Wijesinghe has correctly pointed out utterly misleading nature of this video.

    I noted following in this video.

    30.45 – Tiger police officers in uniform in “No fire zone.”

    37.34 – Woman who claims rape is dressed in heavy winter cloths.

    5.45 – So called Tamil Brahman, in real life who would not offer water or a chair to Prabakaran or to any LTTE cadres because of CASTE, winging about plight of Tamils.

    If we see the unedited footage, story would be very different. The Sri Lankan Army and Government posses thousands hours of footage of Tiger atrocities. Obviously, with loved ones in mind, much of it can not be released. But it is time to rethink this strategy, and also time to release footage of captured Tiger carders boasting about their actions during the war.

  8. andylingam Says:

    1) 30.45 -no fire zone mean no fire zone ( no LTTE zone ).
    37.34 – She was helping war wonded people .
    5.45- When round up by force ( near to dead ) no concen to people their caste.

    Time to relise all SLA & Govt thousands hours of footage of Tiger atrocities !!! & release footage of captured Tiger carders boasting about their actions during the war !!!

    Ref:Sri Lanka government is denying all allegations
    What is your oppinion ??

  9. Rohan8 Says:

    You just cannot escape the uncomfortable feeling that a sinister conspiracy involving Sri Lanka long term in scope, by the dark powers that be operating out of London to break up Lanka for nefarious secret agenda? Now I am convinced this is the case. One thing is for sure all problems happening in Sri Lanka can ultimately be traced to the dark machiavellian machinations of deeply Evil forces in London. I think some powerful Buddhist Incantations to ward off these London based Evil forces won’t go astray right now.

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    Ex-Colonists never quite give up, particularly when their economies are in jeopardy.

  11. Idealist Says:

    The incidents C4 try to raise, shows that the path of the UK media reportage is such that fabrication outweighs fact, in relation to “how events are filmed and broadcast.” The title – “Sri Lanka’s Killing fields,” and the filming of the footage & commentary itself is testament to this. The documentary overlooks the collateral damage & civilian casualties caused by the LTTE who hid behind women and children to wage their war, and the killings carried out by them against the Muslim community in their ethnic cleansing campaign. C4 claims the footage to be authenticated by experts. Even if this be the case, the question is, does their expertise transcend beyond their field to qualify them or C4 to be able to attribute all the casualties in the footage, to the SL Army?

    While I do not condone atrocities of any sort against humanity, I concede to the reality that at times of war, there will undoubtedly be military targets subject to attacks, during which civilian casualties are not a peril, but an absolute certainty! As to Prof William Schabas’ comments on the SL Army attacking hospitals being a serious violation… perhaps, the learned Professor is not familiar with or has overlooked the exceptions to the general provisions he based his comments on (ref. Article 19 Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War 1949). Furthermore, the SL Army which controlled the flow of goods to the besieged area was under no obligation to assist the LTTE’s military forces which comprised of women and children as well (cf. Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions 1949). All of this could be legitimately backed by the doctrine of military necessity.

    Where is the credibility in Dorothy Byrne’s warning statement, when she herself claims not to have watched the footage? All I could say to this is, display the humanity by all means, but not at the cost of professionalism!

    Those that trust the media to abide by the rules or not to twist and manipulate the truth, are very gullible indeed. UN Officials themselves have admitted that the C4 documentary had been edited and broadcast back-to-front. Now that’s a “seriously funny” major cock-up! “Integrity and professionalism,” C4?? LOL

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