By Emil van der Poorten –
Another contributor to Colombo Telegraph, Kusal Perera, and I have differed on what we consider to be the “self-censorship” practiced by the Sri Lankan media. I subscribe to the belief that those elements of the media not owned by or absolutely controlled by the government are self-censoring to the point of irrelevance and Kusal interprets the term “self-censorship” differently.
However, I don’t expect that either he or any writer to the media who is not, literally, bought and paid for by the forces that are running this country with the authority of an iron heel coupled with a mailed fist, will (or CAN) dispute what I am about to document and the fact that it is DELIBERATELY misleading journalism, the motive for which should be obvious to anyone of even limited intelligence.
The web edition of the Daily Mirror of Saturday, September 28th has an article titled “UNHR Council divided over SL” which I can only assume appeared in its print edition as well. The link is here for anyone wishing to verify what I have to say in what follows.
That item, running in excess of 1300 words, deliberately sets out to deceive any reader who does not check the basic information provided, particularly those who do not believe that a newspaper owned and controlled by the family of the Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe, would engage in reporting of a nature so deceitful that it might, arguably, put the government’s own Daily News to shame!
In my last column I referred to the fact that the most recent Columnist of the Year, as selected by The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Press Institute had sought asylum, permanent or temporary asylum _-depending on your source of information – “somewhere in North America.” Canada’s most watched TV network, CTV, reported this on the 19th of September and I don’t know whether even the paper for which Mandana now writes by email, The Sunday Leader, has reported what one might consider news of some importance, up to now.
I suggested in last week’s piece that the pious souls who awarded Mandana the accolade this year could, appropriately, make a special award to one of their number for this particular display of intestinal fortitude, which might legitimately be billed as “The Silence of the (Judas) Goats!”
I would now like to suggest that those same two august bodies, controlled by the Press Barons of Sri Lanka, set up yet another award for deliberately misleading reporting and that it be awarded to the Daily Mirror, the owners of which, I remember, once carried off the premier award at the self-same annual celebration some years ago with an entry that did not even qualify for entry in the category concerned! If that could be arranged, then surely it should be a breeze to arrange for the two awards I suggest not only to be provided but appropriately awarded! An added bonus would be that the newspaper chain concerned would garner some appropriate Brownie Points from our current embodiment of democracy, aka the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, for loyalty beyond the call of duty!
To return to the article concerned, however, it lists 20 members of what it claims is the current Human Rights Council as being strongly supportive of the Sri Lankan government and goes on to mention the specific actions of the Sri Lankan government, post-Nanthikadal, that every single one of them consider deserving of high praise.
Given the fact that the total membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council is 47, twenty of that number expressing what can only be described as fulsome praise for Sri Lanka at this point of time, before sittings that could have major implications for Sri Lanka in the matter of accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity and in the teeth of the broad condemnation of the government by Navi Pillay, any sane reader would arrive at one conclusion and one conclusion only: those twenty would be voting in support of Sri Lanka and, given the timing of their clearly expressed support, the odds of Sri Lanka winning at least four other nations to its cause would appear prohibitively high in the circumstances. This would, obviously, result in “game, set and match” to Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cronies.
However, there is one fairly significant fly in this particular ointment: only eight of the twenty countries listed –Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Venezuela – are members of the United Nations Human Rights Council during its current term, ending on December 31st 2013! It would seem that the rest of the twenty – twelve in number for the arithmetically-challenged – would not be able to put their votes where theire mouths have only recently been, unless, of course, such voting is carried out in the manner preferred in Sri Lanka!
One hardly needs a Sherlock Holmes to unravel a mystery that isn’t, while the motivation for this kind of deliberate deception hardly needs nervous-breakdown-inducing concentration to deduce.
For those critical of the shenanigans that pass for governance in this country and thought that there was at least one newspaper chain which, even though it was no “Horatius at the Bridge” of democratic principle, would not deliberately lie and obfuscate, what can I say……? Would the old chestnut, “Who needs enemies when you have friends like these,” be considered appropriate (substituting “enemas” for “enemies” for obvious reasons) in this case?
Of course, if one is given to a level of ultra-saintly generosity (or unbelievable naivety or simple deceit), you could trot out the old excuse that the entire 1327 word essay simply constituted a “mistake” or that I have been grossly prejudiced in my description of the tone, content and intent of this particular piece of journalism. Take your choice, my friends! And if you are, by some chance, one of those who will continue to accord any credibility to what Wijeya Newspapers puts on the pages of its publications from now on, I might have a position for you in sales. How does a free plane ticket to Anchorage, Alaska and an overland journey to a location North of the Arctic Circle sound? The grand prize? An opportunity to sell refrigerators to the inhabitants of points north of wherever your overland journey ended in the USA’s largest state!
In any event, would you be interested in making a donation towards the two prizes I have suggested in this and my previous column: one for “Journalistic Silence While a Premier Journalist Flees the Country” and another for “Deliberate Deceit in Reporting Simple Facts?”
Shortly after I’d completed this article, my attention was drawn to an almost identical article in Ceylon Today. Curiously, both it and that in the Daily Mirror have no indication of who might have authored them – either a journalist or a news agency. One can perhaps be forgiven for wondering whether both pieces are releases from the Sri Lanka government’s Media Centre for National Security, known among the cognoscenti as “The Ministry of Truth,” a term first coined by George Orwell in circumstances that Sri Lankans can now readily relate to!