By H.L. Seneviratne –
It is no secret that the state media were used in the most blatantly partisan manner by the Rajapaksa government during the recent election campaign. Since state media are the property of the people, their partisan use is unacceptable, and the programme of reform contemplated by the new government should significantly include reform of the state media. A sound media culture and organization would be an indispensable tool in any methodical programme of social and political reform.
Media constitute a powerful means of public education in the modern world. This is particularly so with regard to radio and television, but the socially and educationally persuasive power of even the traditional media is considerable. In any rational attempt to build a happy and prosperous society, the state media should be used positively to propagate modern ideas and knowledge.
Far from engaging in any such, the state media, in addition to being politically partisan, have propagated conservatism, parochialism and other forms of medieval thinking, as well as superstitions and ritualism, hailing these as “national culture”. Religion should be respected as a personal matter to be observed privately, but find no place in the state media. This is particularly so in a multi-religious society where the majority religion ends up dominating the media space allocated to religion. Instead, in a progressive society, media should be used to propagate modern social and scientific ideas and help the society rid itself of magic and other forms of superstition. Former president Rajapaksa’s reliance on astrology should sober our thoughts about that branch of ignorance.
*Free Laptops from President to Journalists | File photo
In a diverse society like ours, the media could be a powerful tool for promoting mutual understanding among ethnic, religious and otherwise different communities, and in the present context, national reconciliation. Not the least, an enlightened media policy can also elevate the standards of literary and aesthetic taste in the society as a whole. Such enrichment could supplement the improvement in the quality of life that a people-friendly programme of economic development can bring about.
In view of these incontrovertible facts, it would make sense for the new government to establish an independent authority to ensure the organization, quality, professionalism and impartiality of the state media. When we have such an exemplary state media system, the private media will have no choice but to improve their own quality if they are to stay competitive and profitable for their owners.
Spokespersons for the government just voted out of office, conspicuously including its leader Mr Rajapaksa, have made the irresponsible and divisive claim that the new government was elected by the Tamils and the Muslims, and they got the vote of the Sinhala Buddhists. If they did, the reason is the relentless racist and supremacist propaganda carried out by the illegal and immoral use of state funded newspapers, radio and television for their partisan benefit. Had the people been given the opportunity to hear and judge the case made by each of the two contending parties, it is clear as daylight that they would have overwhelmingly voted for the common opposition candidate.
Amarasiri / January 21, 2015
H.L. Seneviratne –
RE: The Need For Media Reform
“It is no secret that the state media were used in the most blatantly partisan manner by the Rajapaksa government during the recent election campaign”
They had less control over Twitter, Facebook and U-Tube even though they tried their best to ban or curtail.
What were they afraid of? The truth and Facts.
Still a Common Sense Phamplet Sri Lanka 2014 in Sinhala and Tamil could have got the message across to the masses, despite the restrictions, by MaRa Yakka.
Sunshine / January 21, 2015
“What were they afraid of? The truth and facts”.
Oh yes! This is worse than Joseph Goebbels’ lies
You know well why you like social media. Because you can spread lies about people, under pseudonyms, without any evidence or facts to substantiate allegations of fraud and other evil.
If Ravi Karunanayake the swindler has any ethic or commitment to Yaha palanaya he should resign now that his lie on the Taprobane B/C account has been revealed. If Sirisena knows the meaning of shame, he should ask the swindler to resign.
Put your money where your mouths are you hypocrites.
You were against MR because he was a true Sinhala Buddhist. The country knows it,
S.Sivathasan / January 21, 2015
Compliments for the sane thoughts and the fine conclusion.
Religion should not merely find no place in the state media, it should have no place as a state function
As for media reform, a comprehensive approach may need a Commission, a report and a law. Just now the country can’t wait for it. Need of the hour is a Code of Ethics and observance of it from March or earlier, so that the media will provide a moral flavour for the April election.
All effort should be directed towards a two/third majority for the incumbent regime in the April election.
Sharmini Serasinghe / January 21, 2015
The state media have been used and misused by successive governments, since the early 90s.
With regard to the state Television Rupavahini, the rot set in during President Premadasa’s regime and continued unabated to date. A certain Minister-of-State at the time, used to openly call it “my Rupavahini”.
Politicians used it as a place to ‘dump’ their unemployed lackeys, irrespective of their suitability, to give them employment.
The state media has much to do, if they are to regain even an iota of respect and dignity, they once commanded.
AVB / January 21, 2015
State media Rupavahini and others showed UNP MP Thewarapperuma physically abusing a (Tamil) councillor in front ~300 people and a quality video camera. He got the Councillor to kneel down in front of the crowed. Truly this was worse than Mervyn Silva tying a person to a tree. Media reported it, so what happened, anybody know? Media freedom itself couldn’t do anything. Video reports on policeman hitting a woman or Wariyapola girl hitting a young man got some immediate attention and some actions under MR regime.. What are MS/RW doing?
Sharmini Serasinghe / January 21, 2015
“…….Thewarapperuma was arrested today after he surrendered to the Colombo Crime Division…..”
Leelagemalli / January 21, 2015
Yes this should work to the manner SHARKS AND SPRATS ALL will have to face it regardless their status of the participation in current prooning process.
Native Vedda / January 21, 2015
“Politicians used it as a place to ‘dump’ their unemployed lackeys, irrespective of their suitability, to give them employment.”
According to my Elders this has been the case since early 1970s. All state institutions have been used as the dumping ground for party supporters and their relatives.
Even Central Bank, planning ministry, treasury, state owned banks and other institutions were filled with graduates who Pali and other classical languages.
I wonder weather these graduates were asked to study modern economic concepts from ancient Pali texts and write their own treatise on development economics, financial institution in the modern world, Japanese art of Management, …………… etc.
Palmsquirrell / January 21, 2015
” Spokespersons for the government just voted out of office, conspicuously including its leader Mr Rajapaksa, have made the irresponsible and divisive claim that the new government was elected by the Tamils and the Muslims, and they got the vote of the Sinhala Buddhists “
Unless there is evidence to suggest Sinhalese were prevented from voting for Maithiri or the count was flawed in MaRa’s favor , as it stands Rajapaksa did get most of the Sinhalese votes.
Ofcourse the media’s bias can also be construed as foul play. Media has always been biased but Rajapaksa took it to another level.
Don Quixote / January 21, 2015
We don’t know who to believe ! All news papers and other mass media are not credible.
This is the ideal time to restart Lake house and try to restore it to what it was. Some of the quality still remains and can be glimpsed occasionally.
Meanwhile either the president or the Prime Minister should give the country updates on a weekly basis vis-a-vis the 100 day plan.
Paul / January 21, 2015
If Maithri presents a ‘State of the Nation’ type address to the people once every week or two, it will do him and the caretaker government a lot of good. In the future it can be reduced to once every 6 months or so.
Leelagemalli / January 21, 2015
This is a valuable idea but with the enormous pressure exercised by people and the opposition it is hardly thinkable that Prez may have to focus on such good speeches without prethinking of the contents. The way the new govt moves is seen fair to all walks of people sofar except to the former prez who is now on a hatred mood being part of rubble rousing using poor men and women to get drawn the attetion towards him. But as justice sources confirms nothing will stand on their way if found guilty for any abuses to have carried out – since the former Prez was not reported to have been sick while allowing his goons to plunder the national treatury. All these occured with his approval being in the middle of them. So, the current regime have to do all these not to the very same manner MR attacked Sarath FONSEKA even before election fever was normalized in 2010, but to highly civlized, law bound, MAITHREE manner convincising the general public – all these are not taking revenge but entitled to the country’s law and order system which will not make any distinction between the status of the convicted – LAW IS EQUAL TO EVERYONE.
W.Jayaweera / January 21, 2015
Transforming state broadcasting services into Independent Public Service Broadcasting Institutions is an absolute necessity.
This task could be launched immediately by establishing an expert committee to make specific recommendations, including means of public funding to achieve complete transformation of the state broadcasting services into a truly public service broadcasting institute editorially and institutionally independent from the government of the day. The members of the Public Service Broadcasting governing board/s should be appointed by the constitutional council with a mandate to act as independent trustees of the public interest in broadcasting and not as representatives of the government.
Functions of the public service broadcaster could include:
nourish representative pluralism;
serve educational and cultural dimensions;
editorial purpose should consistently show the ability to become the society’s voice;
to elevate cultural levels of the society;
to set programme standards for all broadcasters by providing quality programmes;
to cater to special interests which may not have a large audiences;
The staff of these institutions should have a highly motivated public interest minded professional attitude devoted to promote democracy and to foster educational and cultural dimensions of a civilised society.
Village Green Guy / January 21, 2015
You are insulting the inherent intelligence of the masses when you assert that religion should have no place in the conduct of journalism.
All ethics come from the theological aspect of philosophy, viz. the Decalogue in Abrahamic religions, Vinaya Piitaka embedded in the magga, the commensurate ahimsa and dharma principles explicated by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, etc.
Unless all journalism practitioners voluntarily follow a common code of ethics, the quality of journalism is unlikely to improve.
Such a general code of ethics is already outlined in the magga. One can interpret it with no religious connotations at all. It’s applicable in the digital era as much as it was in the sixth century BCE.
All Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians should unite in demanding the magga as Sri Lanka’s normative moral code for implementing god governance and for restoring the quality and usefulness of journalism.
Jim softy / January 22, 2015
Sri Lanka should have a HEFTY FINE SCHEME TOO to discourage false, irresponsible and unsubstantiated reporting and even prosecution and jailing for report offenders.
Many Sri lankan media outlets report lies
Malawi Sooriyage / January 22, 2015
Hope you were born before 1977! So when you are writting about media and misuse of respective government please start from 1977 JRJ’s “Dharmishta government” and Premadasa’s “Podiminihage government” too. All the corrupt practices invented by these Dharmishta gang and finally Madamullana gang too used such public properties….
BBS Rep / January 22, 2015
“have propagated conservatism, parochialism and other forms of medieval thinking, as well as superstitions and ritualism, hailing these as “national culture”. Religion should be respected as a personal matter to be observed privately, but find no place in the state media.”
But how could we – when every politician of every color and creed with their pirith noola mentality have to kowtow to the mahanayakas as their first port of call at every celebration and crisis. How could we move forward when at every drop of a coin we fall on our knees and worship the smelly slippered feet of every scoundral in political garb or saffron robe. When will we stand up with an erect spine from the mentality of the slavish ingratiates of the colonial era.
Expatriate / January 22, 2015
I have always enjoyed reading HLS’s writings, whether they are books or articles such as the present one. HL is one of SL’s outstanding and fearless anthropologists who have chosen, perhaps due to unavoidable reasons, to live outside SL. My only hope is that the present government will make use of his services.
Native Vedda / January 22, 2015
“HL is one of SL’s outstanding and fearless anthropologists who have chosen, perhaps due to unavoidable reasons, to live outside SL.”
Only few of them (intellectually honest and maintaining rigorously high academic standards) are left in this island.
It is up to us to preserve their life time work. Their work should be freely accessible to anyone who wants to learn and prosper.
Whom do we now rely on for enlightenment, Dayan, Mahindapala, Malinda, Champika, Nalin, …. Darshanie Ratnawalli, …. Weerawansa, ….
Wise counselling, inspiration, … from these people, no chance. They are around us to take us into oblivion ………