19 September, 2018

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Tough Lady Should Look At Media Corruption As Well

By Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

Wednesday this week (December 09) marked the international anti-corruption day with a nationwide campaign on eradicating corruption. Interestingly all mobile phone users, too, received a common text message with a pledge “I declare: I shall not pay a bribe, I shall not take a bribe and I shall report / give info on corrupt practices.”

Sri Lanka, according to the global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, is still performing better compared to many of its Asian neighbors as far as anti-corruption is concerned. In fact both India and Sri Lanka are the best performing countries in this index in South Asia ranking in the 85th place among 175 countries.

When talking about corruption, the first sector of society that comes to anyone’s mind is politicians. They are the most visible and noticeable characters in the domain of corruption.

In fact Sri Lanka should be glad to reach its current position in the global anti-corruption index with the poor level of governance we experienced for the past one decade. Corruption and nepotism became a gigantic octopus that encroached every segment of society – from top to bottom. This does not mean that President Rajapakse initiated it, rather he fully enjoyed and benefited maximum out of what has been commenced by his predecessors.

All four pillars of democracy were severely affected by this epidemic. No need to specify the level of corruption of the executive, it was limitless. If the stories we hear are correct, the mere number of complaints of corruption against the ‘top family’ amounts to more than 700. How many years would it take to resolve these cases given the natural and unavoidable tendency of laws delays?

Then comes the legislature which was predominantly guided by a corrupt executive. So need no further explanations. There was a blanket approval for his “Yes Men” to determine their own conduct, irrespective of morality or ethical standards. When we refer to legislature, it does not confine to Parliament – but its allied institutions as well. The high profile cases that came into light during recent months – specifically the biggest ever bribery case of customs and several corruption cases of senior police officers were significant events in the fight against the menace in big scale. No doubt, the tough lady who heads the bribery office would leave no stone unturned and no case unresolved. She has proved her competency and won the public trust, I believe. The hurdle she is already facing is the lack of resources in the face of mounting complaints against the big wigs – both former and present.

The judiciary was not left alone. The interventions of the previous regime into the country’s judicial system not only deprived the trust among its own population, but extended to Geneva as well. Thus, the hybrid systems were proposed. It went to an extent where the winning President Maithripala Sirisena refusing to take oaths before the incumbent Chief Justice of the country. Getting him out of the job was a ‘mafia style operation.’ But these judicial corruption allegations should not confine to the Rajapaksa regime, to be fair by him. We still remember how Ravaya reported the appointment of Sarath Silva as Chief Justice by President Chandrika Kumaratunga by publishing the picture up-side-down on its front page with a caption “Adhikaranaye Malagama” (the funeral of the judiciary).

The fourth pillar of democracy is media – the watchdog of the society with no watchdog on itself. Thus, very less we hear about the issue of corruption within media. It exposes others but no mechanism to expose itself to the society and display its true picture to the people at large.

As in every other sector, corruption within the media sector spans from top to bottom with very few exceptions. Corporate ownership – either state or private – would always enjoy economic or political maneuvering while a few would engage in converting black money into white through media businesses. This is not a unique feature to Sri Lanka, but a global phenomenon where a significant portion of the media market is owned by cronies. Many owners would use their media outlet as political or economic tools, though they continue to make financial losses. Here I must repeat the fact that there are a few exceptions that engage in genuine media business, too.

When training journalists on practicing ethics, independence and accountability are among the most cardinal issues that are being discussed at length. But its practicality is in question. This includes both editors and journalists. From another perspective, eradicating corruption from a profession which is not paid well is a tedious task, but it is not a blanket excuse to engage in corrupt practices that could span from receiving a cap or a t-shirt as a gift at a press conference to massive financial deals – either to publish or not to publish a story. Such events could take place at provincial as well as headquarter levels.

There is an interesting advertisement by one of the Sinhala radio channels. It starts with a dialogue where a politician is receiving a bribe and then go on to say that even paying cash to the listeners is a direct mode of bribing. Several radio channels offer cash – not as a prize but as a gift – to their own listeners in a bid to promote the respective channels and provide extensive publicity to those cash receiving events. We should ask the tough lady at the Bribery Commission whether this could really be a bribe, and if so we need to take stern action against such misconducts of the Fourth Estate.

Another grey area that needs thorough scrutiny within the broadcast sector is the ‘rating madness.’ To my mind this is an extremely vulnerable sector that could be susceptible to corruption. The monitoring system has its own technical mishaps where a few hundreds of samples “indicate” the behavior of millions of media recipients and the so called research entities dominate and probably manipulate the market as well. A thorough academic research based on empirical evidence is a must to find out the loopholes, and possible corrupt practices within this system – and also to propose alternatives.

Thus, media should not be spared from any anti-corruption campaign. In fact we cannot think of a dynamic democracy without cleaning the media landscape from these unethical practices. We need a system to watch the watchdog.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    1

    well said, appreciate your point on ‘rating madness’ very true.. may be only in Sri Lanka if you claim you are listening a particular network you get instant cash.. with cash you can buy people mind share, which we call media rating.
    how crazy we are..
    one channel went on a major campaign against port city.. later on they received a big sponsorship… sadly this is the state of media. Hope that Tough Lady Should Look At Media Corruption As Well.

  • 4
    4

    Reading this drivel, someone with limited knowledge of pre 2005 Sri Lanka might think that it was a utopian paradise. The problems exacerbated under Mahinda were evident even under previous regime.

    The appointment of Sarath N. Silva and S. Bandaranaike contrary to established norms took place under CBK. Election malpractices such as Wayamba took place under CBK. Assaults on the media also took place under her. Trying to hang on to power having promised to abolish it in 6 months took place under her. So while we condemn the Rajapakes let us not fool ourselves into believing that all was well before 2005.

    While investigation the corruption in the media (which we should), may I suggest we do an investigation of Dr Ranga Kalansooriya too !

    • 6
      2

      Robert R – Any reason for your “suggestion” about investigating Dr. Ranga???

      In any event, TISL has defecated on its doorstep with its recent ‘Integrity’ award to a proven scam artist and common thief (according to the numerous links in CT’s post of today).

      However, your points about the malpractices under CBK’s administration are well taken, not to mention the scandalous misdeeds and lies she was responsible for – the main one being saving Rajapakse from the ‘Tsunami Ripoff’ and enabling him to be the presidential candidate, thus foisting on Sri Lanka the biggest disaster in its recent history.

      • 2
        0

        If the media is corrupt as he claims (which I suspect maybe true), what makes the author (Ranga) PURE and CLEAN? Let us investigate him as well. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

        • 0
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          Robert – I’m not sure that Ranga means we should investigate EVERYONE in ALL four “sectors” he has referred to. That would be next to impossible and rather a fruitless exercise in stupidity.

          Generally ones who merit investigations are the ones who have records of alleged corruption (like the ‘laptop beneficiaries’, or scam-artists like Victor Ivan?) and who defend the donors in spite of their alleged misdeeds.

          If the Gander has behaved like the Goose, then by all means what’s good for one should be good for the other!

    • 5
      1

      I’m afraid that all this does sound like drivel! Can we know, please what all this was about?

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/expose-president-sirisena-in-the-thick-of-a-multi-billion-kickback-scandal/comment-page-1/#comments

      An explanation of all this is long overdue:

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/expose-president-sirisena-resorts-to-half-truths-to-conceal-his-brothers-greed/

      Instead we seem to have more appointments being made of people whose behaviour shocked the country. The sums of money involved are astronomical compared with the petty bribery that we are now protesting about.

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sirisena-appoints-disgraced-srilankan-airlines-racketeer-to-the-mobitel-board/comment-page-1/#comments

      Why write more, if nothing happens?

  • 2
    3

    The anti-corruption Iron Lady is perfect to lead the anti-corruption movement.

    I think Sri Lanka finally found its Mojo after meandering for decades.

    The great thing about the new found Mojo is that peoples movement rather than belonging to a single party or individual.

  • 1
    9

    I thought this was all about our Whisky Madam who is the sort of Ayatolla of this new Yahapalanaya.

    Besides becoming an A grade anti corruption crusader, now the Madam has recommended that Buddhism should be expunged from our School Curriculum.

    How cool..

    My Elders tell me they were Anglicans who became Buddhists for Political reasons.

    Perhaps this is again a reversal for the same reasons.

    A new mate of mine here, told me the other day that Vellala Anglicans now are an endangered species if not extinct.

    May be Whisky Madam has undertaken a membership drive among our Sinhala Buddhist Elite who are now hard core Yahapalana supporters to restore her family church into its old glory.

    The Madam lives in London too..Right.

  • 6
    0

    It is true that most of our media bosses have no integrity.

    Recently the High Court of Galle attempted to punish senior lawyer Rienzie Arsakularatne for contempt of court because his phone rang off accidently in court. It was not intentional and most likely the senior lawyer forgot to switch off or thought he had switched off the phone before he walked into the court. But unfortunately the phone was on and rang while the court was sitting. This kind of accident can happen to anyone and we should overlook such things.

    Almost everybody sympathized with the senior lawyer and said that the Judge was being petty in trying to punish him for a small thing like that. Actually by his behavior the Judge has reduced the respect we have for courts and judges. This pettiness is not acceptable to a reasonable person. Such small minded people cannot be holding high positions in the judiciary.

    But in the highly circulated Sunday Times ( 6 th of December)we read a very strong and personal attack on Rienzie Arsakularatne on this matter and fully justifying the Judge.

    There is a reason for this. long time The very long serving Editor of the Sunday Times is Sinha Ratnatunga . During the time of Chandrika Bandranayake’s Presidency Ratnatunga was charged with defaming the President with an absolutely false story.Arsakularatne who was a Public Prosecutor at that time was the State Counsel who prosecuted Editor Ratnatunga in that defamation case.

    Now twenty five years later Ratnatunga is trying to take his revenge on Arsakularatne by supporting the charge of contempt of court brought against him by the Galle judge.

    When a man is sitting as an editor of a newspaper we assume that he functions with no bias and is trying to bring us information and opinions which are fair and honest.

    But in this case it is so obvious that this Editor is using his position to settle personal matters.

    So that is the quality of our Editors !

    • 0
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      Mate,

      The Editors did their best to hoist Yahapanaya.Didn’t they.

      They reported in big letters every lie , innuendo and slander from the UNP,,Whisky Madam and the TNA against Rajapaksa for nearly 5 years since Nanthikadal.

      How much more can they do for you,when your Yahapalanay has only delivered for a few, after Rajapaksa were rolled..

      They delivered big time for ,the likes of Singapore Mahendran , Son in Law Aousious,Galleon’s Father in Law . and Sirisenan’s baby brother Kumaratunga.

      But your buddy Batalanda Ranil and his enforcer Galleon from Bloemendhal have sent thousands of poor Sinhala workers home.

      Including over 6000 both able and disabled soldiers.

      Obviously some editors with a conscience have reported these Yahapalana measures to the annoyance of Batalanda Ranil, who even threatened Ada Derana Editors in parliament.

      Your layer mate, from Galle should give up, if he doesn’t know how to turn off his Mobile before entering court.

      White judges who Batalanda is importing to sit in our Yahapalana Hybrid Courts send them to jail if they are in contempt of court.

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