30 September, 2020

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What Must Be Said Will Be Said

By Malinda Seneviratne – 

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day. It is a time for reflection about the status of these freedoms or their absence in Sri Lanka.

In this Age of Information, Sri Lankan journalists do not have the privilege of Freedom of Information legislation that would give access to information on important issues and mega projects.  The manifest reluctance to open the doors to scrutiny implies that there are things to hide.  There are other more tangible obstacles.  There is threat and its execution.  There’s gagging, direct and subtle. There is self-censorship wrought by these things.

Journalists themselves don’t make things easy when they lie and mislead, when media freedom advocates violate principles of transparency and accountability.  Journalists have suffered rather than benefited from outfits such as the Free Media Movement for these very reasons.  Just the other day, for example, an NGO called ‘Freedom House’ ranked Sri Lanka 167th out of 198 countries with respect to ‘freedom of the press’.  An outfit called ‘Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice’ claims that 34 Sri Lankan journalists were killed.  The former makes calculations based on organizations like the latter.  Now if we don’t factor in the credentials of the relevant information providers then we have reliability compromised.

If someone wears the journalist hat now and terrorist cap later and happens to be killed in counter-terrorist operations, we can choose to call the victim ‘journalist’ or ‘terrorist’.  Our choice is framed by ideological and outcome preferences.  If in description and naming the necessary qualifiers are kept hidden we don’t do justice to our vocation.  And when the unjust champion the just cause of press freedom, it only shows how poor we are.  If, moreover, the unjust also happen to be embezzlers who don’t give a hoot to the transparency and accountability they demand from governments, it makes matters still worse.

Regardless of the antics of self-appointed advocates of press freedom, regardless of the fact that some of them are rogues, they cry they raise remains valid.

We want things changed.  We want protective and enabling legislation.  We demand these things because no oppressor ever voluntarily concedes anything to the oppressed. That’s what Martin Luther King (jr) said.  True. And demands have a better chance of yielding something tangible if the oppressed stand together.  Those numbers count.  A single individual, after all, is not a front.

And yet Rosa Parks, on December 1, 1955 decided to object to segregation laws in Montgomery.  She was an individual. She continued to sit in a bus when ordered to stand and make way for a white passenger.  She sat down for freedom and thereafter others African Americans stood up for freedom all over the United States of America.  There was advocacy in her act of defiance. There was also ‘doing’; there was ‘walking the talk’.  Even as she sat.  There’s a lesson there for all of us.

Journalists do not have to wait on the largesse of, the powerful.  Even as they agitate for freedoms, it is incumbent upon them to rehearse that freedom and desist from that which could compromise their cause.  There are contractual boundaries.  Journalists must play at the margins and strive to push them out.  Those who say ‘impossible’ probably don’t try hard enough.  There is nothing airtight in this world.  If anyone entertained illusions that defense systems are perfect, 9/11 would have been sobering enough to abandon the notion.  It is the same principle that allows for an obviously non-destructive equivalence in the media world.  Sure, there are dangers.  Journalists have got killed. No one said it was going to be delivered on a platter with thank-you note either.

This is why some feel that there’s safety in numbers.  And yet numbers is just element. Organizations and organizing are useful but not always necessary when it comes to saying what needs to be said.  If what needs to be said is to be said, one must have courage and skill.  One must be intelligent and creative.  There should be humility and patience.  Above all there has to be professional honesty.  Take any one of these out, and no amount of friendly legislation will get us very far.  Freedom is not given, it is got. It is obtained less by agitation than by practicing vocation. With honor and dignity.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 5
    1

    Malinda,

    Don’t hide…….every time you take a white paper to write, don’t the white van comes to your mind…….. we see that in your writings.

    :-)

  • 3
    3

    Colombo Telegraph,
    Why have you not reported the following;
    US State Dept 2013 Terrorism Report Says”LTTE International Network Persists”and that”LTTE Members or Supporters are Operating in Sri Lanka and India”.

    Are you being biased or you just missed this news item?

    • 1
      0

      This must have been done by a ‘rogue’ segment of the State Dept., while Kerry was busy running his Ukraine campaign, and while Biswas, his underling, was entertaining the very same terrorist groups in a different part of the Dept. This is nothing new in US politics, if you remember that under Bush (Jr.) the Intelligence Personnel were kept away, and the ‘intelligence’ he received was from the NeoCon placemen Feith and Wolfowitz, leading proponents of the Iraq war.

      • 2
        0

        Ramu

        “What Must Be Said Will Be Said”

        The title reminds my elders of a golden oldie sung by

        DORIS DAY and the LYRICS:

        “Que Sera, Sera”

        When I was just a little girl
        I asked my mother
        What will I be
        Will I be pretty
        Will I be rich
        Here’s what she said to me

        Que sera, sera
        Whatever will be, will be
        The future’s not ours to see
        Que sera, sera
        What will be, will be

        When I grew up and fell in love
        I asked my sweetheart
        What lies ahead
        Will we have rainbows
        Day after day
        Here’s what my sweetheart said

        Que sera, sera
        Whatever will be, will be
        The future’s not ours to see
        Que sera, sera
        What will be, will be

        Now I have Children of my own
        They ask their mother
        What will I be
        Will I be handsome
        Will I be rich
        I tell them tenderly

        Que sera, sera
        Whatever will be, will be
        The future’s not ours to see
        Que sera, sera
        What will be, will be
        Que Sera, Sera

        Watch this on youtube for a change:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXQTWCTc0aI

        • 2
          0

          And then, how cool is this:

          Down by the bay
          Where the watermelons grow
          Back to my home
          I dare not go
          For if I do
          My mother will say
          “Have you ever seen a pooze
          licking others’ shoes?”
          Down by the lea

          Down by the bay
          Where the watermelons grow
          Back to my home
          I dare not go
          For if I do
          My mother will say
          “Have you ever see a rea
          lurking with a bear
          Down by the slay

          Down by the bay
          Where the watermelons grow
          Back to my home
          I dare not go
          For if I do
          My mother will say
          “Have you ever met a guy
          mocking with a sly?”
          Pill him to spay

          Down by the bay
          Where the watermelons grow
          Back to my home
          I dare not go
          For if I do
          My mother will say
          “Have you ever eat a pie
          bowels got a gripe?”
          poop and fling-away

          Down by the bay
          Where the watermelons grow
          Back to my home
          I dare not go
          For if I do
          My mother will say
          “Have you ever see a monk
          drunken in a dunk?”
          Pinch him away

          Down by the bay
          Where the watermelons grow
          Back to my home
          I dare not go
          For if I do
          My mother will say
          “Have you ever seen a crime
          by Gota and his swines?”
          Swipe them away

          Down by the bay
          Where the watermelons grow
          Back to my home
          I dare not go
          For if I do
          My mother will say
          “When the Native bet a rump
          and the rump got a hump?”
          Skin him away

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE6xzCI-TwE
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR-oGgD-DLs

          • 3
            0

            Sophocles

            Thanks for your eulogy to this forum which am sure many would appreciate as one enriching the gamut of human emotion.

            Many of us didn’t know there is a culture vulture bursting to come out from a moron.

            Its brilliant, thanks

            Here is part of a so, so poetry by Charles Bukowski:

            so you want to be a writer?

            if you have to sit for hours
            staring at your computer screen
            or hunched over your typewriter
            searching for words,
            don’t do it.

            if you’re doing it for money or
            fame,
            don’t do it.

            if you’re doing it because you want
            women in your bed,
            don’t do it.

            if you have to sit there and
            rewrite it again and again,
            don’t do it.

            https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/so-you-want-be-writer

  • 1
    2

    Nuisance

    Would you like a bell hung over CT editors bed so that you could ring the bell and report all things wrong about CT.

    Just king Elara had one over his head.

    • 0
      0

      He allegedly communed with the cows which used to ring that bell. He must have had a Veddah interpreter.

      • 2
        0

        Ramu

        “He allegedly communed with the cows which used to ring that bell”

        commune – share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone), especially on a spiritual level.

        Note spiritual level.

        “He must have had a Veddah interpreter”

        Your former kings Guttika and Sena were horse whispers.

        Why not Veddah speaking to a cow.

        • 1
          0

          They shouted for me when their horses snorted, when restless hooves traced circles in the earth and shimmering muscles refused the plough. While Ram the Rambo picks his cowdung bending his back to the sunshine cracking it like cloudbreads.

  • 2
    0

    Malinda,
    For once,you are correct.
    You have stated the truth about journalism in sri lanka.
    Congratulations.

  • 0
    1

    ——————————————-
    Journalists themselves don’t make things easy when they lie and mislead,…..
    ——————————————-

    Malinda are you talking about yourself? -:)

    Finally Malinda wants to tell something against MaRa but his laptop prevents him and ended up some garbage published. -:)

  • 0
    0

    ” Journalists do not have to wait on the largesse of, the powerful “

    We had a thousand ‘journalists’ yesterday fawning over Barack Obama. In the days of Rosa Parks there were thousands of locally owned newspapers. Today there are six major groups and they are in the hands of the big and powerful, just as the government is.
    We had Judith Miller, bringing us a string of lies in order to promote the Iraq War, and ended up in jail for a different matter. Then again we have the likes of Jon Snow, and Jonathan Miller, familiar to all Sri Lankans.

    ” While the truth is getting it’s boots on, the lie has travelled half-way round the world.”

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