Ceylon Today – one of the mainstream English newspapers in Sri Lanka, has come under heavy criticism following a poster campaign carried out by the company to promote its July 6th issue titled ‘Sri Lanka under Al-Qaeda threat’ bearing the image of a masked, black-clad terrorist wielding a gun.
The Sri Lanka Muslim Council (SLMC) in a letter to the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief, Hana Ibrahim yesterday have expressed their concern and objection to the subject matter chosen to promote the newspaper, pointing out the content is lacking ‘sensitivity and concern to the recent anti-Muslim violence and the ongoing hate-campaigns against Muslims’ in the country.
SLMC Vice President Hilmy Ahamed in his letter has described the poster campaign as an ‘insensitive, unethical and opportunistic marketing technique’.
He has pointed out that such campaigns coupled with the provocative stories that have concurrently been published by certain other media institutions have contributed to fuelling unsubstantiated rumours of Islamic terrorists operating on Lankan soil, which is in turn systematically helping gain grounds for hate campaign against Muslims.
Ahamed has gone on to state that against the backdrop of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa denying the existence of such armed Islamic groups in Sri Lanka, it is of vital importance that the media refrains from sensationalising issues.
Furthermore, he has called upon Ibrahim to ensure that responsible and ethical business practises are adopted by Ceylon Today, that would not further endanger the social relations between Sinhala and Muslim communities that are presently in a fragile state.
We publish below the letter in full;
Ms Hana Ibrahim,
101 Rosmead Place, Colombo 7.
Dear Ms. Ibrahim,
It is with much regret that we bring to your kind attention our strong objection to the insensitive, unethical and opportunistic marketing technique used by your newspaper of July 6th 2014 in the posters appearing in Colombo with the caption “SRI LANKA UNDER AL-QAEDA THREAT?”. You have shown no sensitivity or concern to the recent violence in the South of Sri Lanka or the ongoing hate campaign against Muslims, contributing to Buddhist extremist groups’ allegations that there are Muslim armed groups in the country.
The events in Aluthgama and Beruwela on the 15th and 16th of June have damaged the progress made in all spheres of life since the end of the war in 2009. Certain media institutions have continued to plant provocative stories of threats from International Islamic terrorists in fueling the campaign of hate towards the Muslim community. The presence or involvement of any international terrorist network was vehemently denied by the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in his interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper of July 1st 2014. He went on to confirm that they have found no evidence of the existence of such groups operating in Sri Lanka.
Your attempt to market your newspaper with captions and images of an international terrorist organization may create the impression in the minds of the wider public that such armed groups do really exist in the country.
We kindly urge you to be responsible and ethical in your business practice, and not to further endanger the fragile social relations between the Sinhala and Muslim communities.
I thank you for your kind consideration.