arliamentary Reforms and Media Ministry Secretary Nimal Bopage may be correct, in a way, when he said in a statement last week that the term “Joint Opposition” used by a group of Parliamentarians was wrong, since it connotes the entire Opposition in the Parliament, which was not the case. The parties representing the Opposition Leader and Chief Opposition Whip do not represent the group that calls itself the “Joint Opposition.”
But, even if it is wrong, this is not the only term or the word that the media is using incorrectly. Some journalists are claiming nowadays that the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran has got a resolution passed in his Provincial Council in order to have a Federal Administration for the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Students of political science know very well that a Federal system cannot be established in only one territorial unit of a country. During the early days of the war in the North and the East, politicians including the leaders of the Tamil parties and groups demanded decentralization, a term they later changed as devolution. In that case, one of the two terms had to be wrong.
Can Mr. Bopage assure that the political parties that call themselves communists in fact follow communism theorized by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels? Had those made a big fuss about the ‘Halal’ products during the previous regime realized the exact meaning of the term ‘Halal’ given in the Holy Qur’an? There are three entities in the country that have the term “Good Governance” in their names. How can it be possible while the term connotes only one meaning? The learned Media Secretary might have read that once Voltaire said that the Holy Roman Empire was Neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire. So the list of controversial terms used by the media and in the media would be unending. Therefore we cannot see any rationale in singling out the term “Joint Opposition” in the “advice” by the Media Secretary to the journalists. Any political group can call themselves “Joint Opposition” even if it is not so.
Secondly, he accuses that some media institutions and journalists were promoting a collective called “Joint Opposition.” May be, but what is wrong in it? That is what the media freedom is, in spite of there being an ethical issue of being one sided. But nobody can deny that one factor that brought the victory to the Opposition’s Common Candidate at the Presidential election in January last year was the one sided support given by a section of the media, while another group of journalists supported the former President.
The Media Secretary writes his missive in an authoritative tone which is being shown by the sentence “I have received reports that some media institutions and journalists are promoting…” This gentleman seems not to have read newspapers nor watched TV nor listened to the radio for the past eight months, until he received reports about usage of the term in the media.
Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilake had attempted to avoid a controversy being created by the Media Secretary’s statement by claiming that it indicated only his personal view. Mr. Bopage has the right to hold his personal views on any matter as the journalists do. He can publish them in the media in his personal capacity, even using his contacts in the media to get them published, as many people do. But the minister has failed to see the misuse of the position by his ministry secretary to accuse the media of misusing media freedom. We appreciate Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on this World Press Freedom Day, for taking the matter seriously and calling an explanation from Mr. Bopage.