Media freedom: Don’t allow truth to remain silent

Media freedom: Don’t allow truth to remain silent

DailyMirror: Editorial:  

As thousands of jubilant flag-waving Americans and others continued to celebrate the reported killing and sea buriel of elusive Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, we yesterday marked World Press Freedom Day. What we know about Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden is largely what Western governments and often deceptively biased Western media tell us. The killing is likely to give a boost to President Barack Obama’s bid for re election, while more devastating international issues like state terrorism go largely unreported, twisted or colour-washed to fit into what many see as some CIA detective fiction. What is important for the people is not just to accept what governments, state-controlled or biased media tell us but to deeply study and find out the story within the story, the agenda behind the agenda and who is responsible for what.

Just five days before yesterday’s World Press Freedom Day we in Sri Lanka marked the sixth death anniversary of senior journalist Darmaretnam Sivaram. Sivaram was also known by the pseudonym Tharaki. He was abducted from a Bambalapitiya Restaurant and his bullet-ridden body was found the next day dumped in a paddy field within a high security zone near the parliamentary complex. Amid renewed calls for his killers to be brought to justice little or nothing seems to be done in that direction.  Two years ago on January 8, The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickramatunge was brutally killed in broad day light not far away from military checkpoints in Ratmalana. Lasantha was known for his fearless and forthright reporting and as an editor who never pulled his punches. His articles on what took place behind closed doors in the corridors of power were not couched in euphemism or double talk He said it straight and said it as it was. He too paid the ultimate price with his life. His killers too have not been identified.

From time to time there have been reports of journalists being killed, abducted or compelled to leave the country after being subjected to assaults, threats and intimidations. So how goes press freedom in Sri Lanka and in other parts of the world, why do those in authority look askance at the free media, which is one of the watchdogs of good governance. A free press has the power to stir the conscience of those in authority and provides the opportunity to feel and read the pulse of the people and thus become aware of their needs and aspirations. The fear of objective journalism is not confined to Asia, or Africa, or the Middle East but exist in Western countries as well.

It’s important to ponder what American journalist T.D. Allman, best known for his exposés of the CIA’s “secret war” in Laos, has said, “Genuinely objective journalism is journalism that not only gets the facts right it gets the meaning of events right. It is compelling not only today but stands the test of time. It is validated not only by reliable sources, but by the unfolding of history. It is journalism that ten, twenty, fifty years after the fact still hold up a true and intelligent mirror to events.”

In tandem with what has come to be described as the kept or captive media, the official or free media, is the emergence of a new or unofficial media with the dramatic rise in social networking via the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, E-mail and the SMS, which with modern technology, disseminates news in a manner that is fast and vigorous and thus provides a balance in countries where freedom of expression is diluted or polluted.

On Press Freedom Day let us remember the hundreds of journalists around the world who have been persecuted and murdered because their independence and courage were feared. They are our real heroes.

As Soviet dissident Yevgeni Yevtushenko said, “When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.”

Let us not let this happen in Sri Lanka.

/ News

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