by Walter Fernando
The media in Sri Lanka is divided into two categories, the state owned and the privately owned ones. The state owned media has lost all its credibility and by no stretch of imagination can anyone gather any news about the affairs of the country. This carries government and commercial advertisements with a minimum of foreign news and doctored local news.
We the citizens have given up our rights to force the government to relax its stranglehold of this media of which, we are the stakeholders and subsidisers. Many governments promised to divest these institutions but have never had the decency and courage to do this.
The manipulation of the media is the oxygen for the survival of all these political parties since none of them have any originality to lead this country. On the other hand some of the free media, privately owned are also not standing up as national newspapers, setting a yardstick in openly exposing corruption and maladministration; they are frightened that their vested monetary interest will be lost.
We have about six regular English newspapers, and it is very noticeable that most of these papers are committed to their paid journalists, without whom the papers cannot survive. While, this is understandable, it is not totally acceptable. Sad to say that some of these journalists are mediocre, particularly the ones in the state media. We are aware, given the frightening situation prevailing today in this country of targeting journalists by the state, may be one of the causes of their mediocrity.
However, the contribution of the media in defending the rights of the people is inalienable, more so in Sri Lanka which is forever deteriorating. The free media is the last straw we have to cling on to preserve democratic values. It is incredible that some newspapers — the owners, editors and journalists are battering the government and its machinery and risking their lives. I salute them and am sure most of the readers who are born patriots agree with me. I distinguish between the born patriots and the rhetorical patriots with political and financial interests, just playing to the gallery.
The majority of us citizens who have no political interest save the national interest have been sidelined. It is up to this free media to propagate and publish our views fearlessly and that is the only hope of bettering the future of our progeny.
It is my experience and view that even the free media is not exerting enough pressure on whichever government by publishing complaints, views and letters of the public, which admonishes the government and its administrators.
A survey of the letters appearing in the press will reveal that public opinion is not given its rightful place given the fact that everything under the sun in Sri Lanka is complainable. [a Lettter to the Editor – The Morning Leader, Colombo, Sri Lanka]