2 December, 2021

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Kudos, Colombo Telegraph! 10 Bold Years & Counting! Musings Of A Writer!

By Mohamed Harees –

Lukman Harees

During the postwar period in Sri Lanka, the oft quoted ‘mad monk’ phenomenon in general reigned supreme. In June 2014,  the words of the hate monk Gnanasara rang deafeningly loud amid the silence of the Fourth Estate, and BBS – the racist anti-Muslim hate group he led, with patron saints in the then Rajapaksa government, embarked on a well-orchestrated orgy of violence against the hapless Muslim community in Aluthgama and its suburbs. The mainstream news media, being under a strict regime of State censorship feared to report these events institutionally, particularly because of the prevailing MoD (Ministry of Defence) pushback. It was eventually left to the social media on the web and alternative media and citizen journalism, as well as updates from professional journalists, to expose the dire situation then explosively building up in the area, leading to a potential pogrom.

The government owned Daily News for example chose to focus on Rajapaksa’s speech at the G77 summit then happening in Bolivia. The Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka’s English newspaper with the largest circulation,  focussed on a drugs bust. Thus, in the absence of any mainstream media involvement, the international media relied on information shared on alternative media and all the opinion and analysis of the news also took place on social media and the blogosphere. In this regard, the pivotal role played by Colombo Telegraph (CT) to lend an outlet to voice the plight of a vulnerable community being laid siege by a racist government cannot be forgotten.

This credible alternative media with wide global readership gave much needed invaluable online space to expose the injustices faced by the underdogs particularly the minorities, due to the racist agenda of the postwar governments and its agents. Writers on human rights themes like myself, always found the Colombo Telegraph very accessible and accommodating whenever there was an imperative need to project concerns of the voiceless, in a growing atmosphere of fear and censorship for bold and courageous journalism in Sri Lanka, especially in that context.

Media organisations are generally assumed to play an important role in democracies, but the question of how effective are they in performing a ‘watchdog’ role by providing information, and the degree to which they act as a representative forum for the views of citizens in Sri Lanka, was a controversial one. Most governments hide behind mainstream media through manipulation of truth and public opinion. Besides, in the Sri Lankan ethnically polarised societal context, innumerable studies have proved that there is an ethnic bias in the mainstream media, which continues to perceive ethnicity as immutable and innate, neglecting its responsibility to demystify stereotypes and buttress institutions and practices that can ameliorate ethno-political conflict. Both the ethnic ownership of media institutions and the connections of some rogue media outlets to political masters nullify the work of journalists to examine the realities of other ethnic groups as well as to engage in balanced reporting. Thus, with many media outlets following created narrative, it is the role of alternative media to fill the void it leaves behind.

It is in this context, that an alternative media like Colombo Telegraph, which chose to toe an independent editorial line and boldly challenge the status quo from all side of political divide giving voice even to the hopeless, continues to be both a boon and a blessing. And it is through this that the freedom of expression can be kept alive too. As per a FB post by its dedicated editor, Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, there have been more than 26,000 articles published during this past decade reflecting a wide shades and points of view. In fact, an international media monitoring team which visited Sri Lanka was reportedly informed that Colombo Telegraph was in fact the best online journal on Sri Lankan affairs. It is rightly so and Colombo Telegraph deserves every such accolade. Colombo Telegraph! Kudos for your decade-long mission to serve the cause of the vulnerable, underdogs and the voiceless. Your continued progressive role in shaping positive narratives, promoting an inclusive nation and fighting against human rights abuses, racism, social injustices and bigotry will be sought after by all Sri Lankan both within and beyond.

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Latest comments

  • 16
    2

    Yes, the author is right! Colombo Telegraph is performing a great service by disclosing all the hidden truths to the public instead of presenting only rosy pictures to mislead the public like the government-controlled and affiliated media. Another great feature of CT is its comments section, which allows the readers also to participate in the debate on the affairs of state and other matters that directly have a bearing on the welfare of the citizens. CT should follow its own independent path and present all the news that are of relevance to the people of this country fearlessly. Say Boo to censorship!

    • 13
      2

      Yes, I agree that CT is performing a great service to Sri Lankan people. I would like to see more participation of Sinhalese in this forum at this juncture to save this country and people.

      • 3
        1

        I don’t have a clue who runs CT ……. but it’s bloody marvelous that Lankans of any/many persuasions have a forum to express their opinions freely.

        As for censoring the content ……… unbridled free-speech has a way of finding its own equilibrium ……. usually for the better …….

        Do opinions have the power to change? For the good: rarely …….. for the worse: often ………

        Why gild the lily? ……….. There is nothing to improve in CT ……. except Native’s vocabulary of cuss-words and nimal’s English ……….

  • 10
    2

    CT we always thank you for giving us the opportunity to express our thoughts and minds about the grieving situation in our home country.
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57xPUP9HVuY

  • 2
    8

    Mr. Walter Mondale echoed the great phrase “where is the beef”. CT Where is the Beef??? except for the empty vessels to make the din.

    • 0
      0

      I must add to the above comment: Mr. Edwin Rodrigo, please pardon me.

    • 5
      2

      Where’s the beef you say? You actually ask where is the beef? Democracy is gradual, refined, elegant, and far-reaching. It tones down and/or eradicates the raw brutishness of the autocrats.

  • 0
    2

    Voice of true democracy! Motherland will be soon saved.
    *
    Also there should be a children’s and young people’s version of CT to boost up their spirits. Cartoon version even. It will help the young people with their reading and writing slills and pique their intetest in the development of their country. The guy Uvinda Kurukulasuriya should enter politics.

    • 0
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      …interest*

  • 5
    1

    Yes. I would like the sensible/reasonable/ rational / educated Sinhalese to voice up against the evils of the current and past rulers.
    Definitely not the type of EE —-a blinded person

  • 9
    5

    Although the writer is right about the role and achievements of CT, I have yet to see him write on any mainstream issue. He and several other “minority” voices only highlight their own problems while a vast number of the majority community suffer in poverty and hardship probably far worse than the injustices caused to middle class minority members. With regard to comments, I wish there were saner commentators who have balance and depth, who do not resort to infighting among themselves or push narrow ideologies. It will make the quality of CT even better that way..!

    • 3
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      Lasantha,
      The problem of sanity is not peculiar to CT. Just read the comments in the online versions of mainstream media.
      The ignorance of most people is unbelievable, given that we have had free education for many generations.

    • 1
      1

      LP
      I share your sentiments very much.
      I have come across objections to discussion of international issues.
      Utterly racist comments against other communities are more the rule among people who are confined to ethnic issues.
      But we should recognize that participants here are predominantly middle class and the national question too centred on middle class issues. The oppressed classes matter only as a statistical detail to push a point, no more.
      As CT is also dominated by strongly anti-left views, interest in the plight of those suffering poverty and hardship is weak.
      Personal abuse is another cheap escape route for quite a few.to deflect serious discussion.
      I have protested about it to CT, but strict action may mean a drop in participation I guess.

      • 2
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        SJ,
        “As CT is also dominated by strongly anti-left views, interest in the plight of those suffering poverty and hardship is weak.”

        Can you define “anti-left” views?
        Is the poverty and hardship a property of those “left” views?
        Do you deny that there is an ethnic issue in Sri Lanka?

        • 0
          0

          OC
          What you say is very true.
          But LP expected better from CT, as any well wisher should.
          The poor standards of our mainstream media cannot be an excuse for a medium seeking the truth. Some kind of control over vile racist and personally abusive comments will not harm CT.
          *
          A
          I do not think I need say anything in response to you but thank you for having made my point, but for resorting to personal abuse— that has been fulfilled by another just below.

      • 0
        0

        “I share your sentiments very much.”
        Don’t be such a dumbo Vaththi!

        Please, read Author’s essay, read Mr. Lasantha Pethiyagoda’s comment, and then to understand the meaning of his comment, go back and read the author’s past essays, then write your comment. Don’t be chaff to just write something.

        Please don’t throw your axe in the cart that is going; learn to write an independent comment instead of hiding under women’s munthanai to defend your hypocrite points. You have that nasty habit and then additionally spew poison on all the writers and commentator; no one is exempted for your hate mongering
        .
        If you still have a problem in understanding, please let me be a bit more explanatory; “the author is talking about CT, Lasantha Pethiyagoda is talking about your class commentators & writers”. Your definition of leftism is that one criticizes Siri Ma O is a racist.

      • 0
        0

        Though Lasantha Pethiyagoda is not wrong, which problem one needs to talk about is what he/she is bothered about and in what he/she has specialty. Lasantha’s point is that if one calls him/her a human right writer, there are many areas that must be covered. But one wants to write about Muslims’ right can only write about Muslims’ problems. Because the human right problems arise by societies violates each other’s rights, writing Muslims’ problems and claiming that is human right is not right. Instead, Author could have been more honest in saying that “I take opportunity in CT to write Muslim minorities’ problems. Like that, oppressed cates, LGBTQ, women, …… all take their opportunity to bring out their problems. Then it lifts the CT’s color that it is balanced journal too.
        Please don’t pretend to balance with Lasantha, because he is worried about common welfare, you are dig in to destroy common welfare, with your hypocrisy dramas. You openly wrote to me in CT that you will ridicule all my comments. Then where do you get the moral ground to criticize others? Deny if you have writing skill that is not poisonous hypocrisy?

    • 2
      0

      LP,

      “He and several other “minority” voices only highlight their own problems while a vast number of the majority community suffer in poverty and hardship probably far worse than the injustices caused to middle class minority members.”
      I understand your concerns but in reality human beings are diverse and thoughts and behaviours are not the same. No one born with poverty and hardship but the environment or situation produce poor and rich people and the attitude also changes over the time sometimes. Why there is no forum similar to CT in Sri Lanka where you can focus on these problems of poverty and hardship among people irrespective of particular community or race? Racism is the main problem in Sri Lanka whether you accept or not. It is the racist politics that is the barrier for the poverty and hardship of majority of people.
      Why more minorities writing or commenting in CT because there is no other place you can at least discuss about the problems of the minorities.
      Have you ever thought of producing any article in CT on the problems of the vast number of majority community suffer in poverty and hardship or have you seen any article by a majority community writer in CT? Can you please clarify whether you meant “Sinhala community” when you say majority community?

  • 1
    1

    I agree with the observations of Mr. Pethiyagoda , even on this forum we should attempt to raise our standards and general intellectual approach, not narrow self interest.

    One of the biggest problems we see in our society is the general attitude of sucking up to bosses/politicians/officials or bribing in different ways to get an advantage. This is true of all communities although in certain communities it seems corruption is part of every transaction. Such conduct brings down overall standards.

    For example, if you are working for say Sunday Times as a journalist and you start praising the owner -Wijewardena family and also heap praise on the editor, that journalist cannot be considered a man of integrity.

    Similarly , to praise the editor of the website

    Similarly ,

  • 3
    1

    I can agree with the comment of Mr Pethiyagoda , even in this forum, we must try to raise our standards and the general intellectual approach.

    We cannot approach every thing from the yardstick of ancient parameters, race, religion and colour. Our country has many common problems, corruption in various forms being one. All communities are guilty of sucking up to bosses/politicians/officials and giving them various gifts expecting favours.

    But it seems in certain communities giving bribes and other corrupt practices is common across the board. Such conduct brings overall standards down and will keep us as a poor third world country for ever.

    For example , if a journalist working at Sunday Times start praising the owning family and the editor in print in that very paper ,will that journalist be considered a man of integrity ?

    Similarly, when a writer to a Web Site start praising the editor of the web site we may think that he wants the editor to keep publishing him with prominence. These are situations we must avoid in the interest of overall journalistic integrity and standards.

    • 1
      0

      deepthi silva,
      Generally, both you and Lasantha Pethiyagoda demonstrate balanced opinion. However, , in this instance, your reflections trouble me a lot.
      .
      You allege that “minority” voices only highlight their own problems.
      _ There are enough of you to highlightyour issues; Voice of minority members do not become essential or required.
      _ Members of the majority community fail to understand the issues faced by the minorities. (There are some privileged minorities who fall into that category.)
      That explains how the cookie crumbles!

  • 0
    1

    let’s see

    if this is the sound of democracy it must be democrazy. All my posts are censored as it does not meet their guidelines. Their guidelines are only followed by the sheep.

    ;sets see of this gets through. lol

  • 3
    0

    Agree with Lasantha P. Many comments are racist, push narrow ideologies, and there’s so much infighting.
    *
    Some articles are unnecessarily verbose. “Verbal diarrhea” is a frequent affliction.

  • 3
    1

    Great Job Colombo Telegraph.
    Well done and consistent.
    Wish you another 10 years of success

  • 4
    2

    Fully concur with this writer .
    Congrats CT
    Keep up the good work

  • 0
    0

    To develop an on-line Media Venture like the CT, STARTING FROM SCRATCH, and operating from London is a reflection on the skills of a single personality Uvindu.
    Undaunted and Unafraid, he has provided a platform for a wide-cross-section of views on the current scenario in Srilanka. The mainstream Media is like the Govt:Gazette!

    I am aware that most Srilankans overseas,keep abreast of the situation in the country on the Political front through the CT.
    Keep going CT. We need your Jab to increase our immunity from the Political circus.

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