By Tony Perera –
This is being written in two veins. One to point out the massive corporate hypocrisy of our media landscape. Secondly and most importantly to at least maintain the adversarial façade of our political landscape.
Rajandram Rajamahendran is not a nice man. His achievements in cricket are mainly due to his privileged position in society and not due to his leadership talent. His media empire though seemingly brave in their reporting only really does so for the subsequent benefit of political clout. Given the massive failings in our society in any real democracy, the coverage should be far worse.
As Sri Lankan politics have nothing to do with policy Rajamahendran’s death will open new dynamics in our highly interpersonal networks of political clout. As with new people, there can be new beginnings, the Capital Maharaja media empire can and probably will broker some form of peace with the UNP and SLPP.
Rift with Ranil
At the last General election, Kili Raja Mahendran of the Maharaja Organization requested two slots in the National list of MPs at the general elections to which I did not agree. Therefore, his Sirasa media has turned hostile to me and my party, and have started a campaign to attack us – Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
Though not acknowledged Ranil has an admirable track record of standing against media conglomerates. In backroom dealings, he seems to have made few friends and many enemies. Notable among his enemies are the likes of Hiru, Ceylon Today, Derana, and Sirasa.
In all these feuds there are great moral underpinnings. It was his government that jailed the brother of the Hiru group owner whose release according to sentiments expressed online is considered a miscarriage of justice. It is not for newspaper owners to play an active role in the suppression of voter rights. With Derana though the relationship has turned somewhat more convivial lately the UNP under Ranil has stood firm on a pluralistic Sri Lanka. Derana is highly intertwined with the Rajapaksa family and it is under Wickremesinghe’s government that considerable corruption scandals came to public attention.
All major media institutions in Sri Lanka operate on an advertising model. There are large groups of people that have already made up their minds on who to vote for. These people are served by media platforms that reconfirm their biases and help them decide on which brand of soap, piping, and or flavoured beverage they should consume.
Partisan viewpoints, therefore, are good for business. On top of this, it is highly likely that under a Premadasa government there will be considerable benefits to the privately held Capital Maharaja organization.
Why not have a proportionate celebration of journalists who have been killed by the government? A man so thickly a part of the establishment that national leaders have to issue statements on their deaths in a country as corrupt as Sri Lanka is probably not a good human being.
Attacks and coverage of non-entities
As most statements are public the general populace can make up their own minds on who is a sickening sycophant to a media organization. However, amongst yesterday’s coverage, it was interesting to note that the Sinhala Ravaya came out in praise of the late Rajamahendran. This is an institution that short of the coverage given by the corporate media does not have any traction in other platforms. Their social media reach and any other metric of public engagement are poor.
Individuals with some knowledge of how the Central Bank has arranged the payments system would also see that the Sirasa based attack on Muhunthan Canagey was highly misleading. Pricing of payments products in Sri Lanka as set by the National Payments Commission are very much against the digitization of the payments ecosystem. Competition in the payments space through ICTA would have been beneficial to all of us.
With apologies to Canagey, it is odd to see why people of such little interest to the general public are given such prominent coverage by Sirasa.
The UNP was probably under duress in issuing yesterday’s statement. Aligning with Capital Maharaja organization regardless of their new political alignment is not in the public interest. Recent polling still shows that Premadasa can not win a general or presidential election. However, many will defend this action as favourable coverage is a necessity for political survival.
To solve this, following an electoral victory, the UNP can then look to vest one of the state media broadcasting channels (either ITN or Rupavahini) with the leader of the opposition. Given the way newspapers work, the deputy editor at the state paper can be appointed by the leader of the opposition. Laws can also be enacted forcing independent media outlets to have balanced coverage. At the end of the day, it is us the general public who should decide on who gets elected.