Posted on November 4th, 2013

By Shelton A. Gunaratne*

‚ The insular American press has ignored the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting‚  (CHOGM), scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka from Nov. 15-17. It comprises 53 independent countries (with a total population of 2.25 billion occupying almost one-third of the world-â„¢s land area) that were once British colonies.

I wrote this column to point out that this omission reflects a serious flaw in the news judgment of the American media establishment and the hired journalists who filter the news that-â„¢s -fit to print.-

Before I substantiate this thesis, let me introduce some basic facts about CHOGM to allow the reader to assess the magnitude of the flaw.‚ 

The origin of CHOGM was in The First Colonial Conference of 1887. The subsequent periodic meetings were identified as Imperial Conferences from 1907 onwards. With the de jure end of colonialism, the countries realized the need to adopt new terminology that reflected the changed international political structure. Thus, the 17 top-level meetings held from 1944 to 1969 were called British Commonwealth Prime Ministers-â„¢ Conferences.

This nomenclature was inadequate to describe the new phase of the Commonwealth in which Britain relinquished its leadership role to be a coequal with other member nations, which assumed diverse political structures headed by presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, and military chiefs. The term CHOGM (wherein HOG stands for head of government) solved the problem.

‚ Although the biennial CHOGM has gathered 22 times since 1971, hardly a small fraction of Americans knows anything about it because the elite press of the country (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today), as well as the non-elite press (e.g., The Forum of Fargo, N.D; the Grand Forks, N.D., Herald) has failed to report on any of the CHOGM meetings. If you think I am exaggerating, do a Google search.

Now, I shall give the reasons for adducing my thesis:

First, the exclusion of CHOGM as a process or event ignores all the news values journalists learn in American textbooks and journalism schools (i.e., impact/ importance, timeliness, prominence, proximity, conflict, currency and necessity).

The American media establishment seems to believe that these news values apply only to the reporting of the Western and the affluent world. They appear to think that reporting about the conflict over human rights in Sri Lanka, the Canadian prime minister-â„¢s decision to boycott the conference over this issue and the immense pressure of Tamil Nadu on the Indian prime minister also not to attend would not benefit but merely bore the American media consumer.

Second, the American media establishment conscientiously underestimates the impact of international organizations dominated by developing nations without the guiding presence of the United States, which they believe to be the primus inter pares (first among equals) of the world.‚  The inclusion of Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand does not make much of a difference.

Third, the American media establishment does not see any resemblance between its colonial experiences under British hegemony and those of the developing countries under the same hegemonists. They think that Britain was instrumental in -civilizing- the barbarians of Asia, Africa and the Americas whereas the Europeans who immigrated to America were superior to the imperial British.‚  Therefore, the reporting of CHOGM and the grievances of the participating -natives- would not benefit the American media consumer.

Fourth, the American media establishment is very good at preaching media ethics, freedom and responsibility while breaching these principles unabashedly in every day practice. Its biases in reporting the Middle East conflicts, its failure to give voice to all points of view, its reversal to sensationalism at the expense of social responsibility, its allegiance to capitalism and vastly unequal wealth distribution, and its refusal to view the poor countries as the victims of exploitation by the manipulative financial capitalists are some of the many reasons for the omission of reporting CHOGM-related processes and events.

Finally, the American press seems to have placed the responsibility of unfolding foreign news to the American public on the World Wide Web and the Internet. Yet, it has to ask itself how the American media consumer could sort out what to read from the plethora of news output spewed out by their smart phones and desktops without the initial orientation to news selection by their local or national rags.

-30-*The writer is a professor of mass communication emeritus and the author of a recent autobiographical trilogy titled From Village Boy to Global Citizen. He lives in Moorhead, MN.


  1. Lorenzo Says:

    SL needs this. Fantastic. If they don’t have the money jail them until they find the money.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill that forces relatives of terrorists to pay for damages caused by their attacks. It also boosts penalties for launching, participating, or financing militant or terrorist groups.

    Under the law, all damages – including moral damage – should be compensated “at the expense of the means of the person committing the terrorist act and also at the expense of the means of his [or her] family, relatives and close people.”

    The term “close people” refers to those whose lives, health, and well-being are valued by the terrorist, due to the terrorist’s personal relationships with the individuals.”

    – RT

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Someone had previously commented at LankaWeb that Sri Lankans living in Sri Lanka RESENT their compatriots working abroad when they come to Sri Lanka to setup new enterprises, for “not having shared the burden” during the war years. Nothing could be further from the truth: Expatriate patriots have not only done their best to turn back the tide of Eelamist Propaganda, but have also contributed MASSIVELY to Sri Lanka’s foreign income helping to keep the economy afloat.


    Investment in enterprises by Expatriates PALES in comparison to their MASSIVE CONTRIBUTION to Sri Lanka’s economy and finances, by the funds sent to support their families, build homes etc in Sri Lanka. This INFUSION of hard currencies by 26% of Sri Lanka’s working citizens employed abroad is the LARGEST SINGLE foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka!

    Without that INCOME in hard currencies, NONE of the INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENTS transforming Sri Lanka today into the New Wonder of Asia would be possible. Those programs, and the interest due on construction loans, are ultimately financed by the remittances of patriotic expatriates.

    Sri Lankans should be GRATEFUL to these worker bees who REFUSE TO FORGET their kith and kin in Mother Lanka!

    US$10 billion target for 2020; Expat remittances to hit $7 b. mark

    By Rasika Somarathna
    November 6, 2013

    Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera while noting that present trends indicate migrant worker remittances will hit the US$ 7 billion mark for the first time this year, said his ministry targets US$ 10 billion in remittances by 2020.

    Current figures show with over 1.7 million Sri Lankans working abroad, migrant workers constitute 17 percent of Sri Lanka’s working population.

    Remittances by the country’s migrant workers has shown a 10.9 percent increase in the first eight months in comparison to figures for the same period last year. Minister Perera expects remittances will surge to over an unprecedented US$ 7 billion at the end of 2013.

    He said if the foreign worker remittances go past the US$ 7 billion mark for 2013, it would be an increase of at least US$ 1 billion from the previous year. The minister said in 2012, migrant worker remittances rose to US$ 6.1 billion, the highest contribution from a single sector to the country’s foreign revenue. The workers’ remittances was 10 percent of the country’s GDP in 2012.

    He said in the first eight months of 2013, remittances rose from US$ 3.9 billion to US$ 4.4 billion. He said remittances for August alone had shown an increase of 16.3 percent.

    Meanwhile, the number of workers who went abroad for employment increased by 11,721 in the first eight months in comparison to figures last year. A significant feature is that the number of women migrants, especially domestic workers, has seen a sharp decline this year while the number of male skilled worker migrants increased significantly. In comparison to last year, there is a 12 percent reduction in females going abroad for jobs while males have shown a 29 percent increase.

    Minister Perera attributed the surge in worker remittances to the thrust adopted by his ministry to increase the migration of skilled manpower for better salaries and perks rather than unskilled female domestic workers.

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