Posted on September 4th, 2021


Once upon a time, said commentators, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)   was the most trusted broadcaster, to which the world turned for news without distortion or warped opinions. It was the world’s first national broadcaster.  BBC World Service kept listeners around the globe informed during the Second World War.   Even today BBC is the largest broadcaster, employing over 22,000 around the world.

But BBC is not as independent as it says it is. Its contract with the government says that BBC must consult with the Foreign Secretary before it prepares   programmes for the World Service. As a result, the BBC world service now reflects British foreign policy. Its reports are not objective or neutral.

BBC took the side of the LTTE in the Eelam wars. Sri Lankans were furious at the biased BBC reporting on the war. The news was deliberately distorted. BBC correspondent Charles Haviland, who has been reporting from Sri Lanka since April 2009, was told   that his visa would not be extended.  He must leave the country. He was later given a three months extension.

The BBC reporters based in Sri Lanka had established links with the LTTE. LTTE deputy political wing leader S. Pulidevan was among those invited by the outgoing BBC correspondent Frances Harrison to cocktails at Galle Face Hotel In 2004. Paranagama Commission said Pulidevan was in touch with Frances Harrison by satellite phone, right up to the last day of the conflict.

BBC’s Channel Four produced several television documentary films on the Eelam war. They wished to show that the military had committee war crimes.  So they showed soldiers committing war crimes conveniently in front of the camera. Experts declared these films to be false. The scenes were staged.  However, the films were shown with great success, to gullible audiences at the UNHCR in Geneva and to television audiences in the west.

In June 2012, Sri Lanka deported Channel 4 director, Stuart Cosgrove from Sri Lanka. His wife of Tamil descent, Shirani Sabaratnam, was not permitted to enter Sri Lanka and was turned back at the airport. Both were placed on a “blacklist” and barred from entering the country.

In 2010, one year after the end of the Eelam wars, BBC ran two documentaries on the Eelam War IV, in the Hard Talk programme. The first was a three part series titled Tamils and the north”.  The second was Democracy Sri Lanka style”, also in three parts. Both documentaries were prepared and presented by Stephen Sackur. Sackur is admired by the Island columnist Cassandra, who says Sackur is her favorite interviewer.

Links for Part 1  and   and

 Links for Part 2  and  and

 In these two documentaries, Sackur took a very pro-LTTE anti government stance. The government was always at fault    Menik Farm was like an internment camp, camera showed barbed wire and government troops.   The end of the war was brutally conclusive”. The scale of the devastation is breath taking. The Vanni is now like an area under occupation. Army is everywhere.

The documentary featured a  LTTE   survivor of the war, now in hiding, face not shown. He said he was in a bunker full of civilians (what was he doing there instead of fighting) Shells were exploding all round. Shells fell in to the bunker and civilians died. Some ran out to escape the bullets and got killed.

Tamil civilians returning home from the IDP camp are shown as ‘innocent victims.’ We have lost everything and we are returning to a barren land. We have no house, no money, we do not know what we are going to do now, they said.  The problem is not over. We will not be a free people until we get self rule.

Sackur interviewed Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then Defence Secretary. This interview was not an interview at all.  It was an interrogation. The interview was in English and Gotabaya’s replies lacked the polished delivery of Sackur, but he got his arguments across. Sackur was interviewing a military man on military matters and Gotabaya was not rattled.

Gotabaya could be seen listening with amusement as Sackur quoted items from the file he, Sackur was consulting. Gotabaya tried to explain what exactly a war crime was, but Sackur cut in and interrupted Gotabaya. Sackur  was using the Hard Talk  style of cutting off the interviewee whenever the  interviewee was about to win the argument.

Political interviews on Hard Talk are intended to get the interviewee off balance, have him flounder and struggle to answer questions, so that the country represented and its government looked hopelessly incompetent.

Hard Talk interviews are  also intended to get the BBC slant across to the viewers. The interviews are politically motivated. BBC is using these interviews to influence viewers said those watching on You Tube. This is  propaganda, they  said.  Hard Talk contains statements, not  questions. In every interview Sackur  does he has already taken a side and is  not ready to listen. He does not look at the realities on the ground,  they  complained.

The point of HARD talk is aggressive questioning, said Tim Sebastian. It is Hard Talk”, after all.  Aggressive, accusatory, questioning, which was diametrically opposed to the   stance of the interviewee. The idea is to ‘hold people to account’. Have them answer in public.

In Hard Talk the interviewer challenges his guests to answer tough, uncomfortable questions. What’s important are the answers to these questions and how the guest handles them, said Hard Talk. This is fine if the interviewee is allowed to finish his sentences without getting cut off halfway, giving the advantage to the BBC.

However, the staff who carry out this task, adopting a superior judgmental manner, are mere paid employees, sitting in judgment on matters of which they have no practical experience, never having delivered a state project themselves, let alone run a country. Their experience is in news reporting.

This essay concludes with snippets from the Hard Talk Interview with Gotabaya Rajapaksa

  • Why there is such a huge military presence in the north one year after the war asked Sackur. It is necessary said Gotabaya.   Activities in north and east have to be monitored. That is  a scary concept for the Tamils, said Sackur.
  • Why such repressive laws ask Sackur . They are needed to protect the country said Gotabaya. Those who have not gone through such an experience will not understand..
  •  Why are you not  prepared to accept  international scrutiny of the military who took part in the war. We are an independent country said Gotabaya firmly. We can investigate if necessary. Our military is highly disciplined .There is not one instance of soldiers marching into a village, and killing everybody. There were no accusations of rape, either.
  • We went beyond what the international law asked for, added Gotabaya. We declared a safe zone and imposed restrictions on heavy weapons and air strikes. Something which has not been done anywhere else in the world.
  • Are you prepared to face a war crime charge personally?  I am, said Gotabaya because I have not done anything wrong.
  • Is it a crime to defeat terrorism,  asked Gotabaya .It depends on how you fight it,  said Sackur. There is only one way to fight terrorism, replied Gotabaya.
  • Sackur turned to  the Sunday Leader’ defamation  case. Does it make sense for a senior official like yourself to sue one of the few independent newspapers in the country. Why are  you asking for one billion rupees which they can’t pay. Sunday Leader” may have to close down. So what said Gotabaya., it was my right to sue them.  The allegations were bogus.  Let them close down the paper.

What Gotabaya  did not say was that a person is obliged to ask for high damages when he sues for defamation. Asking  for less  reduces the gravity of the claim and lawyers will not allow it . Also, a newspaper   knows when it makes a defamatory statement,
that it is running the risk of having to close down if it cannot pay the fine.That is why newspapers are careful about what they publish. Some have legal departments which vet every item. Lastly Sunday Leader” was considered a rag, not a prestigious newspaper.

  • Sackur brought up the matter of Sarath Fonseka.SarathFonseka has said that Gotabaya had ordered those surrendering with a white flag to be shot. Nobody surrendered like that said Gotabaya. He is a liar.
  • Fonseka had said he could testify in a war crime tribunal against Gotabaya. How can he, said Gotabaya. He was the commander at the time.
  • Will you have Fonseka executed for testifying before an independent tribunal.  Yes, replied  Gotabaya for lying, for betraying a country, , betraying soldiers. Isn’t that a crime , isn’t it treason.
  •  What will happen to Fonseka now?, I don’t know , said Gotabaya,  court martial will give the decision.
  • Sackur   tried to put  Sarath Fonseka on a pedestal. He was close to you both”. Gotabaya shut him up. Don’t talk about him. He has his ambitions. He wanted to contest the election and he did.”
  • There is an authoritarian tendency   in the politics of Sri Lanka,  said Sackur . No said Gotabaya . It is very unfair to use such words .We have a  democratically elected president, democratically elected government
  • .But you don’t have a free press said  Sackur. International  journalists have complained. Gotabaya dismissed  this. This is LTTE propaganda said Gotabaya. No it is not ,said Sackur. Yes it is, said Gotabaya .
  • So much power held by one family . Is that healthy, asked Sackur . My brothers were all elected, replied Gotabaya
  • Basil is known as Mr. 10%  said Sackur . This sort of comment is a common thing  all over the world, not just Sri Lanka, replied Gotabaya.
  • What sort of a country in postwar period do you want to  live in, asked Sackur .  True democracy  where the rule of law is respected. Or a country run by a strongman leader where the interest of power are put before individual rights. You put it  in a very wrong way    said Gotabaya .   We have just re-elected our president and we have  had a general election. That is democracy. Security in this country is not for one person or one family. It is for the country .
  • Federalism is out said Gotabaya firmly. We are a unitary state.
  • So this government and you are not changing course asked Sackur. No,  said Gotabaya.  (CONTINUED IN  Pt 23 Dc)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2023 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress