27 June, 2022

Blog

The sacking Of Ceylon Today Editor: Mainstream Morass

By Sanjana Hattotuwa –

Sanjana Hattotuwa

The dismissal of an Editor last week, and the principled resignation of four other journalists from the same masthead raises the question, and not for the first time, whether mainstream journalism in Sri Lanka survives only when it pursues, and is seen to pursue, a partisan line.

During the run up to the Presidential elections in January 2010, a prominent Sunday newspaper publicly aligned itself to support the former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka. This same newspaper in 2011 very publicly supported the Mayoral campaign of a candidate who was very obviously a proxy of the Defence Secretary. State media has for as long as we have consumed it supinely supports whatever government is in power. Some private media, supported in large part by business interests that can’t risk the ire of government, toe the regime’s line as much as State media. Other private media support not just opposition to government, but specific individuals and factions within the opposition. Very quickly, this all gets rather confusing and even silly. The decision to support tainted individuals over principled journalism, and partisan factions over independent critique of a systemic rot means that mainstream media is ill placed to offer alternatives to or a meaningful interrogation of governance today.

In a Twitter exchange I had with a journalist who resigned out of principle last week – a very rare occurrence – the point was made that a few voices, even within this hugely problematic setup, continued to write courageously and independently. While this