President Maithripala Sirisena has declared war against the media and has done this in a subtle manner. President Sirisena cautioned the media about negative reporting and attempts made by them to attack, weaken and destroy the Government. This accusation was made when he launched the Moragahakanda Reservoir, on Monday.
- Cautioned the media about negative reporting
- Attempts to attack, weaken and destroy the Government
- Fails to understand what is news to Govt. doesn’t sell newspapers
- The President and Media Minister are politicians and working for their survival
The President wants the media to only highlight the good things that the Government does. But what he fails to understand is that what is news to the Government doesn’t help to sell newspapers. The most important fact that decides the survival of a newspaper is readership. Journalists working hard to produce news have had to do justice to readers. Their responsibility is not to keep the Government happy.
It is true that a few journalists who have personal agendas might be working towards contributing towards a regime change. If this can be proven, such journalists have to acknowledge the fact that they’ve been very unprofessional.
It is true that a few journalists who have personal agendas may be working towards contributing to a regime change. If this can be proven, such journalists have to acknowledge the fact that they’ve been very unprofessional.
But when we read in-between the lines regarding what the President has uttered we are compelled to bring to the picture the Government media arm, which State Minister for Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera affirms has been a failure. The minister once said that the State media failed to accurately convey to the people information about the Government’s development programmes.
This confirms the fact that what the Government sees as news doesn’t appeal to hardcore journalists (Serving state media) who don’t have personal agendas. The Government should fear journalists who have personal agendas and don’t adhere to media ethics. It is these journalists who do more damage to the country, not the scribes who perceive the truth and write about it.
The media experienced severe hardships during the war because defence columns were subject to Government censorship. The former controversial Minister Mervyn Silva once said on television that the media shouldn’t highlight the fact that the bakery, which starts supplying bread to the nearby Army camp had recorded an unusual rise in the sale of bread. The Minister said that this type of details, when reported in the media, would help the LTTE rebels to figure out how many were in the Army camp.
The President wants the media to only highlight the good things that the Government does. But what he fails to understand is that what is news to the Government doesn’t help to sell newspapers.
We came to know that Prince Harry was whisked away from a camp in Afghanistan, where he was engaged in military duties when his presence there was leaked to the media. Harry was removed from that camp because the mention of his presence there would have prompted rebels to carry out attacks in full force, which would have exposed other security personnel to unwanted danger.
The media plays a significant role in the survival of a government. We have seen in the past that people were undecided till the last minute about whom to vote for at an election. A classic example of this was the last LG Polls. This is when opinion published in the newspapers helps readers -who are also voters - to take a decision. What readers need during such times is a critical appreciation of how the government has functioned and not sunshine stories that praise only the Government’s development work.
We have a similar situation now even though the next Presidential Election is scheduled for 2020. We have already started speaking about potential presidential candidates. One of them is already busy showing the citizens that he is the most suitable, given his no-nonsense approach to whatever he undertakes.
The scholars in the country and the minorities, who now form the majority vote base (This writer is going by statistics available from the last LG Polls) still prefer the present Government to a dictator from among the top brass of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, at the 2020 Presidential Election.
Months before the President gave that subtle warning to the media, Minister Samaraweera told the media that the Government had no intention of restricting the democracy and the freedom that the media were enjoying. Quite rightly he had said that the people could take the good from news reports and reject what’s bad.
The scholars in the country and the minorities, who now form the majority vote base ….still prefer the present Government to a dictator from among the top brass of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, at the 2020 Presidential Election.
But at the end of the day, we must not forget that the President and Media Minister are politicians and working for their survival. It’s strange that Sirisena sees something unhealthy in the environment that the journalists have created which is a contrast to what the Media Minister sees; a healthy environment where the Government sees no need to restrict journalists.
Are these two playing the roles of Good Cop and Bad Cop?