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Building unity - EDITORIAL

12 January 2016 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The new National Government, having restored democracy, judicial and media freedom to a large extent, is now moving into the second crucial stage of sustainable eco-friendly development intended to bring about a just society with a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources.  

 The media -- the print, electronic and social -- have a crucial role to play in giving the people a full and balanced awareness on important issues so that the people could go even beyond making a choice and have the power to make an informed choice. As we have often said before, for every important institutions or piller of democracy, rights are linked to responsibilities. This applies to the media also. To the extent we carry out our responsibilities, to that extent we are entitled to our rights. Every media institution has a responsibility to speak out for national unity for the common good of people of all races and religions. The media while respecting diversity and plurality, also have a duty to reject and speak out against extremism in any form be it from the north or the South, the majority population or the minority. Media groups that fail in this responsibility, forfeit their rights. Fair, accurate and balanced reporting and feature writing are essential for professional and ethical journalism. In this digital era, the media also need to go beyond to the dimensions of proactive investigative reporting and feature writing with a creative, imaginative and innovative skills.

On a worldwide scale with terrorist groups such as ISIS now turning the Middle East into a flashpoint of unprecedented proportions, the independent media need to be aware that for such terrorist groups, publicity is like oxygen. Terrorist or extremist groups cannot live without the oxygen of publicity. For instance we see ISIS using digital technology to the maximum to radicalise thousands of young people on-line. ISIS goes further and tries to get maximum publicity for its barbaric acts such as the beheading or slaughter of those who oppose it.

 In Sri Lanka also we see some political elements -- defeated and rejected not once but twice by the people last year -- trying to revive their virtually dead group by obtaining the oxygen of publicity. If what they are doing is ill conceived if not contemptible then the cheap media publicity given to them is unethical and unprofessional if not shameful.

 With a large number of daily and weekly newspapers in circulation along with about 50 television and FM radio channels, it appears that in too many instances that degree of professional and ethical responsibility is declining at a time when we are giving top priority to the implementation of the Right to Information law. 

President Maithripala Sirisena in his first anniversary speech assured media freedom and said he had told the State media also to be fair, balanced and accurate in their reporting. We hope the State media would follow this advice as should the private media.

 As for the social media, there are no laws of defamation or control. If those in the social media do not act with responsibility, we all may forfeit our rights in cyber space. 
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