27 September, 2020

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I Can Do No Better Than Siddhartha Gauthama, How About You Mr. President?

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Draft Guidelines for Media Ethics 

These are days of ‘ethics’ or rather days where ethics are questioned and recommended.  President Mahinda Rajapaksa observed that there are those who come up with guidelines for ethical behavior in professional matters and that they themselves can violate these edicts with impunity.  He pointed out that politicians can and do infringe but at the risk of punishment.

Now it is clear that not all those who indulge in unethical (and even illegal behavior) are punished, either by the voters or in terms of the law.  This is not because voters are themselves indulgent.  Most often they don’t have the choice, for they have to pick from among the unethical and unlawful.  As for those who flout the law, there are those who are apprehended and those who get away, the latter usually being endowed with bucks and power, the ultimate insulators against due punishment.

The President also passed the ethics ball back to the media, challenging the fraternity to revisit their own guidelines, amend where necessary or even abandon if deemed unnecessary or impractical.

This Sunday is Poson Poya.  That’s an added incentive to seek succor in the word of the Buddha and the pathway to emancipation therein, namely the Arya Ashtangika Marga or the Noble Eightfold Path:  right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.  Of these, the first two are in the realm of ‘wisdom’, the last three refer to ‘mental development’.  Right speech, right action and right livelihood come under ‘ethical conduct’.  It would be useful then to discuss these in order to shed light on the seemingly vexed question of ethics, media ethics included.

Right Speech

This is the first principle of ethical conduct.  Media is about words.  And of course silences. Both can make and break, save lives and put them at risk, start wars or make peace.  The Buddha elaborates thus: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. In short it is recommended that truth be spoken, spoken in friendly, warm and gentle manner and silence be kept when word does not add to conversation and debate.

Right Action

This is the second ethical principle, right action, considers bodily action as form of expression.  In essence the recommendation is to desist from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and to abstain from sexual misconduct. The terms of ‘activation’ of the principle, it is thus recommended that one be kind and compassionate, honest, respectful of others’ belongings and that one keeps sexual relationships harmless to others. Plagiarism apart, the rest of the guidelines can be taken in metaphoric manner reflection upon which can enhance the ethical character of one’s work.

Right Livelihood

This essentially means that one should earn one’s living in a righteous way, i.e. legally and without harm to others.  Dealing in weapons, dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), and selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs are not recommended. Again we could use these as metaphors to guide professional conduct.

In general, it would appear that reflection on the possible consequences of a given act, including the act of writing, in terms of the above three frames of reference, the exercise of caution always, the deference to wisdom and compassion, makes for ethical practice.

One could write a thesis on journalistic ethics or a ‘comprehensive’ set of guidelines, but it can be argued that it would all boil down to the above.

Mr. President, I humbly offer that I can do no better than Siddhartha Gauthama, the Compassionate One, the All-Knowing One, the Samma Sambuddha, no less.  I can only strive to abide.  How about you and your Government?

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

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    Who the donkey call Siddhartha koudhama, is he Sinhala Buddhist…or great Siddhartha koudhama Buddha who renounced all sorts of blood and violence. Malinda, I knew u meant Sinhala Buddha. Sinhala Buddha evil blood thirsty nothing else. We tamils don’t give a damn u all lot…we will win…just wait.

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      J.Muthu

      Malinda types:

      “I Can Do No Better Than Siddhartha Gauthama, How About You Mr. President?”

      The president asks:

      “I can do far Better than Siddhartha Gauthama, How about you Mr. Malinda Seneviratne?

    • 0
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      Sssh… be quiet! [Edited out]!

    • 0
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      So was Prabhakaran, who was worshiped by foolish Tamils like J Muthu as holier than God.

    • 0
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      The Buddha Sakyamuni was from the Sakya clan and Khstriya by birth.
      He probably has not heard of the Sinhalay modayas from the Southern island of Lanka – who funnily think that Buddhism belongs to them! Sinhalaya modayas have give Buddhism a great world religion a bad name.

      But the main point here is that before a code of conduct of Media or anyone else, it is corrupt and criminal Rajapassa brothers and sons who need a CODE OF ETHICS AND RIGHT CONDUCT for RIGHT LIVELIHOOD, action and speech.

      It is the responsibility of people like Malinda Seneviratne and Lankan Civil society to draft a Code of Ethics and Conduct for Politicians and political parties to educate the corrupt politicians and for VOTER EDUCATION. There also needs to be a CODE of Conduct for political PARTIES which are petty fiefdoms without democracy today in Lanka.
      Per capita the highest number and most vile crimes are committed by Politicians and the political parties which are headed by geriatrics and shameless losers like Ranil Wickramasinghe are dictatorships. The rot starts at the top – in the Rajpassa family military dictatorship, their GIGANTIC CABINET OF UNEDUCATED MORONIC AND CORRUPT CLOWNS and trickles down to the provincial councils and politicians.
      A code of Ethics and conduct for ALL politicians is the NEED OF THE HOUR and should be the basis of a massive VOTER EDUCATION CAMPAIGN so that people do not vote for the corrupt neopotistic clowns like Mahinda Rajapassa who are and protect criminals!

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        “A code of Ethics and conduct for ALL politicians is the NEED OF THE HOUR and should be the basis of a massive VOTER EDUCATION CAMPAIGN so that people do not vote for the corrupt nepotistic clowns like Mahinda Rajapassa who are and protect criminals!”

        A good start for the near future and one may suggest that Hon.
        MP Rajiva sits at it and frames a set of Codes for ALL in the
        Political field, tying up the relevat Penal Code to it. It will be
        a Historical Service to mankind, for the time he and his father spent
        in the Legislature!

    • 0
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      Ha Ha ‘We will win” that’s what Velu said!

    • 0
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      Dear J.Muthu
      The bitter vitriol you spew out in this space (which passes for “a comment”) only casts you in a bad light. I too disagree with Malinda S on many issues and think some of his ideas are hypocritical, misconceived and sometimes misinformed.

      But such bitterness and generalisation on your part is of no use other than to cast you in a poor light and moreover to reinforce the social stereotype that “Sri lankan tamils” are a bitter peoples. As a Sri Lankan tamil myself I hope you rise above this pettiness and engage in constructive dialogue. The problems which Sri Lankan tamils face are real and they can be explained as such. If you are unable to do so, you are best advised not to attempt to.

    • 0
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      The ramblings of a frustrated coolie. We Thamizh are hoping to defeat the Sinhalese by doing a piss poor job of pretending to be civilised :-)

    • 0
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      Muthu, if you hate sinhalese, please express only about them, not about a wonderful philosopher lord Buddha. According to me he was a reformist,philosopher, more than that one who accommodated people from all section; Buddhism in India saved many low caste people from oppression; He was a jewel to the world.

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        Mani, Hope u understand. Look at now whole world help these Buddhist terrorist to solve this burning issue. Specially india gave all the support. without India’s help they have no chance to win ltte. We knew how these Sinhala modaya army fought this war some time ran like rats in battle field. Prabakaran made so many mistakes, he never believed Sinhala Buddhist terrorist give any meaningful solution to Tamil question. what they doing now is make Tamils continuous slaves in their own land. any way Buddha and Sinhala Buddha are two different think. Sinhala Buddhism supporting violent , blood and all sorts of terrorism against other communities. I am not against Sinhala people. my brother married to Sinhala girl, she is wonderful much better than our tamil women. if I hurt you simply I am sorry…

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      You seem to be a pretty illiterate to call Gauthama,”Koudhama”!!!!!
      First learn your facts before commenting here!

    • 0
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      Koudhama ????
      Would you like to be called J.Khutooooo!

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    Ethics belongs to the realm of law. In a country where the Judiciary is headed by an illegal Cheap Justice, how can anyone monitor ethical conduct of any person or an institution? This is clearly displayed in the recent transfer of the Matale Judge who was handling the case relating to the dead bodies found there.

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    First of all, why is the govt. involved with media ethics at all? Here in the US there is an AP Style and Libel Manual that governs the profession. Indeed, media should have ethics as all professions that require skill do, but those ethics should be sourced from the profession itself and not the govt.

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      Wyatt K,

      Ethics in Sri Lanka is Self-Interest.

      The Church did and do that, the Wahhabi do that, the Buddhists do that, the Hindus do that so that their MYTHS are not challenged.

      That is the reason why there should be ethics so that, facts are reported.

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      Dear Wyatt K,

      I am in 100% agreement. However between the lines it can be observed that Prez MR has kicked it back into the penalty prone area of the court defended by the Editors’ Guild. Now it is their role to study what has been prepared by the government and to either reject or accept. By doing so Prez MR, the 21st Century Fox, has quietly silenced the “vociferous minority” who wants the “Right to Access Information Bill” presented in the parliament.

    • 0
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      As you says;
      “I Can Do No Better Than Siddhartha Gauthama,”
      Your Presidante, he can do and doing more better than
      our LORD SIDDHARTHA GAUTHAMA.
      See WHAT HE IS PRACTISING TO GOVERN US.

      Your bosses,
      Your Lord Mahinda Rajapassa and clan
      are following the MODIFIED, New type of Arya Ashtangika Margaya.[THERE IS A CHINA TYPE ALSO.
      not the Lord buddha’s teachings[ the Noble Eightfold Path].

      They Can Do more Better Than Siddhartha Gauthama,
      and
      very soon all of the Rajapassa clan and their goons may enlighten and they will propagate that as RAJAPASSA DHARMA MAARGAYA.

      HE got a good advisory council also to get in to that.
      about 200 odd learned Advisers.
      And I heard You also give advises to all of them,

      By the way ,
      SOME BODY HAD SAID ALREADY,
      “MAHINDA SARANANG GACHCHAAMEEE”???????.

      Please Tell tham to be careful.

      MAY TRIPPLE GEM BLESS YOU ALL.

  • 0
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    Hello Malinda,

    My comment is not on media ethics but about Buddhism.

    We all know what Buddha espoused, the eight fold path that you enumerated – right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

    But we also know that most countries who claim to be Buddhist nations have an appalling record when it comes to practicing what Buddha preached. Pol Pot and Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma and even in Thailand, a country that takes pains to show a peaceful Buddhist facade to the world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thammasat_University_massacre)killing and torture seems to be the only path they choose.

    Buddha is supposed to have said “‘hatred is not appeased by hatred, but by love alone can hatred be appeased’, this is the eternal truth”. If the Buddhists in Sri Lanka can practice this last advice (leave alone the noble eight fold path), I assure you all the rest in Sri Lanka despite language and religious diversities will follow suit.

    Sri Lanka will then be a paradise, instead of the hell it has descended to today.

  • 0
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    wow! Malinda is challenging Mahinda!, for the first time after (according to Malinda himself) he was summoned and given the warning that ‘Malinda, you are being very critical of us these days’ and given an I-pad as a gift. Go Malinda Go!!

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    Malinda Seneviratne

    “I can only strive to abide. How about you and your Government?”

    Forget the government and the president, how about you?

    Right Speech, Right Action & Right Livelihood

    He is telling others how they should speak, act and live but not living by example to follow.

    There is a word for this, oh yes hypocrisy.

  • 0
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    Starting to feel like your under attack? Can’t reason this one like you normally would? Some thing along the lines like…. “There is reporting and then there is sensational reporting, one of these clearly need guidelines” No? Nothing? …..

  • 0
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    Now Malinda can take his “Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-our-mouths” brigade into another coalition with the BBS, Sinhala Ravaya and any other formation that his leadership junta keeps can producing.
    Every time we think we’ve seen a final example of this man’s hypocrisy, he comes up with another one!
    It is people like him to contribute to making this “The Miracle of Asia!”

  • 0
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    Ethics are a part of all religons. However most people do not follow the religous teachings when the opportunity arises to make money by pleasing the president. The use of laptops, duty free vehicles, housing loans have created a new code of ethics for some who write in favour of the govt. For others it is the ethics of the gun, or being assaulted or bumped of that forces them to keep silent.

  • 0
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    Good analysis of the crux of Buddha’s philosophy. Now if only the Buddhist leadership (Sangha?) can manage to get all concerned to abide by these tenets, most of our problems would be sorted out!

    Malinda, you say, “President Mahinda Rajapaksa observed that there are those who come up with guidelines for ethical behavior in professional matters and that they themselves can violate these edicts with impunity. He pointed out that politicians can and do infringe but at the risk of punishment.”

    The problem with this is that the “punishment” is usually selectively administered, and NOT to those whose “impunity” is beyond reproach of ‘the coterie’ (read Merv, Dumi, et al).

    I seriously doubt that “Mr President” will be able to (or even want to) answer the question you concluded with.

  • 0
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    J Muthu, Surely our President is greater than the Sinhala Buddha himself. Just Look at the Awesome miracles performed by him. One boot licking artiste is said to have declared that the President is a direct descendent the Buddha. Dont you see the `Buddha Rashmi“emanating from the holy bodies of the entire family? Saadhu , saadhu..saa!

  • 0
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    Malinda you are correct. Meadia ethics is not a new, it is already there in buddhism. Buddhism is a package of life with full of ethics and morals. Lord Buddha preached and practised. Anyone declare himself as a buddhist it is in him. But Malinda you missed a main point that Sinhala Buddhism is different from lord Buddha’s teaching. So they need again lord Buddha to reborn (reincarnation)in SL.

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    Very good Malinda, but this is not Code of Ethics for Media, but Code of Conduct for all (not only media).

    This is a Buddhist country, so we should live by the words of the enlightened one. You should print and send a copy to all offices (private/public/NGO). Especially make sure you frame the part on ‘Right Speech’ in the BBS office down Havelock road.

  • 0
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    Well said Malinda. In the modern context one could elaborate on Right Livelihood as not accepting favors of any description from INGOs and foreign embassies.

  • 0
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    First of all politicians in this so called Buddhist country must set the example by adhering to a code of ethics. The Noble Eightfold Path will do just fine.

    At least then they can point fingers at others without appearing hypocritical.

    This is a typical case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  • 0
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    Malinda:

    Nice to see you in the Video on BBS where you show through body language your triple gems….

    May Hitler bless your triple gems…SS..Sadhu..SS…

  • 0
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    Please do not quote Siddartha Gauthama with corrupted politicians.

  • 0
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    Both cannot do any better than CWE Marawin, so why try to do better than Gauthama.

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