Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Freedom of the Press.

It is interesting to see how some Western Democracies , and their Agencies, select the winners for awards for Press Freedom or Human right activities. It appears that the awards are not given in appreciation of the deeds themselves, but according to the extent to which their actions had harmed the country which the awarding country or the Agency wants to dishonour.

The runner up for the first annual Freedom Defender’s Award selected by the US Embassy in Sri Lanka was Mano Ganesan. Mano Ganeshan was well known for his close relationship with the terrorists, and whatever part he was playing with the terrorists to set up a separate Eelam. The US Ambassador for Sri Lanka at the time who selected Mano Ganeshan for the award was Robert Blake, who was also well known for his sympathies for the terrorists.

Then Tissainayagam who was arrested and convicted for a more serious offence and whose connection to the terrorists was proved in a court of law was given an award for “ courageous and ethical journalism ” , by the Paris based Reporters Without Borders. He also won the International Press Freedom Award in 2009, awarded by the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the British Press Award named him the 2010 Foreign Journalist of theYear.

There was yet another anti Sri Lanka Government journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga who was awarded the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The Harvard Nieman Foundation for Journalism made him the award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. He also got the National Press Club Press Freedom award, James Cameron Award, and he also got Transparency International's very first Integrity Award.

A wag says that if you have the courage to criticise a government of a developing country or a country which is not towing the Western ideology, and if you are a citizen of that country and write to the press , run a tabloid and cow-tow the west informing them of the weaknesses of the government, you are likely to get all the awards given by the International Community or their Agencies. The wag says Boris Pasternack , and Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn may not have won the Noble Prize if they were not Russians, and critical of the regime.

If Prabhakaran continued to live he may have perhaps been nominated for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize or the Freedom Defender’s Prize of the US State Department , or an award offered by the Amnesty International , UNESCO or UNHCHR.

That is the way how the promoters of the freedom of the Press, manipulate the Journalists of Developing countries to take revenge from Government of Developing Countries for not being meek, and toeing their line of “democracy”. They encourage dissidents by selecting them for grant of awards, honours, and being invited to their countries, or even giving asylum to some of them.

There is evidence of this effort of the International Community to create dissention in developing countries by pampering , and encouraging terrorists and dissidents to work against elected governments, in the way how David Milliband, Bernard Kouchner, Hillary Clinton , Robert o’Blake acted, during the last phase of the government military operations against the terrorist of Sri Lanka, to save Prabhakaran and his terrorists from being completely annihilated.

They did not stop at that even after the Sri Lanka Government Forces eliminated terrorism the International Community was all out to take revenge by attempting to accuse the Government of Sri Lanka for war crimes. They speak of Press Freedom, while Ban Ki Moon is seeking to appoint a commission to investigate whether the Government of Sri Lanka committed war crimes. Is n’t this utter hypocrisy of the International Community interposing their “yes man” Ban ki Moon the cat’s paw for their dirty work, and at the same time defend Press Freedom ?

One may say that this argument is besides the question of the Freedom of the Press. But it is, because it shows why the International Community and their Agencies, like the National Press Club, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Reporters Without Borders etc. seek out for their precious “awards” , journalists from developing countries who write against their own governments and by their writing create communal dissention, prevent communal unity, and keep away developing countries from becoming independent of the sacrosanct International Community-the British, American , the French etc. and pave a path of politically independent development.

These protectors of the Press Freedom, think that by the mere fact of being Europeans, give them the privilege of judging journalists on their own without examining the back ground that necessitated a journalist to be convicted under the prevailing law of the land. Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary-general of the Paris based press rights group Reporters Without Borders said,
"J.S. Tissainayagam is one of those and should never have been imprisoned, Sri Lankans have the right to be informed about what is happening on their island. They have the right to read words written by men.”

Of course Sri Lanka does allow the journalists to write freely, but there is a limit beyond which they should not go. That is because Sri Lanka is only a developing country, and it needs the coalition and partnership of all communities for its development as a Nation. Therefore, the government cannot stand aside allowing the journalists to write what they want hampering the country’s progress towards development, by creating chaos among the communities and keep the country always dependent on the developed countries of the West.
Most of What the Foreign Press Clubs and such agencies say are with a view to condemn a developing country, to create dissention among the people, to keep them poor and dependent on the rich and the developed Nations, to take revenge where Sri Lanka is concerned.
As much as they refused to accept the Terrorists in Sri Lanka as “ terrorists “, as they accepted the terrorists that attacked their own countries -America, UK, Germany etc. as “terrorists”, they refuse to accept that some of the journalists in Sri Lanka writing against the interest of their own country are a danger to its independence and development; apart from their bringing disrepute to the country of their birth.
Therefore it is no wonder that Rights watchdogs have named Sri Lanka as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work, after Iraq and Somalia.
Is it correct to speak of the press freedom without speaking about the necessity to control the press when it oversteps the boundaries of decency , and truth. In the West media has caused untold suffering to people through paparazzi- the “ thieves of images” who would do any thing to photograph celebrities in their intimacy.

The Late Princess Diana was a victim of these photo journalists who chased the car in which Princess Diana was travelling with Dodi Al Fayed . The car had to be driven fast to avoid being caught up by the paparazzi, and when the accident happened the paparazzi were not considerate of the life of the Princess, but wanted to take photos of her mangled body which would have brought them a tidy sum of money.

Is that Freedom of the Press or a shameless criminal intrusion into personal intimacy of persons ? Are not the journalists who complain of state restriction to their freedom of writing , at times a danger to the peoples’ freedom to live the way they want whether they are celebrities or not ?

The News Agencies such as the Reuters, AFP, BBC often distort news, or use adjectives which are injurious in introducing to the readers Political Leaders of developing countries. When Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse was elected the President of Sri Lanka, they called him the “hawkish politician”.

When they wanted to contradict a developing countries effort to draw attention of the world to ruthlessness of its enemies, they mollified the effect on the readers by using “soft” adjectives to describe them. They called the terrorists in Sri Lanka “the rebels”. They called Prabhakaran the terrorist leader, “ the rebel leader”. Some even called the terrorists the freedom fighters. Is this part of the freedom of the press , to hide the truth, by using words to soften the effect ?

There are writers in the Jonathan Steel, Malathi de Alwis, who do not seem to understand that a sovereign state could do what it wants, and what it thinks is best for its people. The memories of the ruthless terrorism of the past is best forgotten. The people have had enough of it. A new page has to be turned and the country united to go forward with its projects of development. Therefore, the ruins of the past that brings terrorism to mind are being removed. And that is how it should be.

It is no freedom of the press for journalists who know nothing of the suffering that the people went through to write condemning the action of the government. That is no freedom of the press but an interference in to the affairs of another country, which has to be condemned.

What has the great defenders of the freedom of the press got to say about the journalists of the UK Channel four for accusing Sri Lanka for crimes on “doctored” photographs ? Do they consider that the media- in the name of the freedom of the press, has the right to do what it pleases to accuse a developing country for war crimes simply because it succeeded in eliminating terrorism for good , where as the developed nations are still entrenched in seemingly never ending war against terrorism, violating human rights and killing innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Freedom of the Press indeed is good where a country is developed and internal problems are less acute than those of developing countries. But in developing countries the journalists have a special duty by its country not to be critical of the government, but help it in its effort to develop the country.

Once an elected government shows sign of following a well defined path for the development of the country, every one must put their shoulder to the wheel to make the “machines of development” work. Every thing said and done a good political leader is a rare phenomenon. We in Sri Lanka are fortunate to have such a leader who is willing to work and take Sri Lanka away from the outmoded development programmes, looking only to the known west as our benefactors, depending on the “crumbs” falling from their sumptuous tables to plan our development.

The President Mahinda Rajapakse has broken loose from those ancient shackles and has been able to lead the country to wards a different way of development. It is the duty of the journalists and media to help in his progressive projects by getting all communities together to engage wholly in the task of development. There may have been untoward happenings in the past but it is not the time to keep harping on them and deviate from the necessary effort of bringing all communities together to build a Nation. That is the duty of the free press of a developing country.

I was in Sri Lanka after four years and I saw a tremendous lot of work that had been undertaken to change the country from what it was before. The roads, schools, hospitals, even towns and villages have benefitted from these vast development programme. Every thing may not be perfect, but we cannot deny that we have at last awakened to a new way of development a different strategy.

There is one programme I saw from which poor villagers begin to profit. It is called “Vidatha” or taking technology to the village. It had been organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology. It trains both young and old villagers who are unemployed to use whatever is available to turn them into saleable items. It is good if the free press looks into it to promote it better, and make it known to the people. They do it well in Akurana.

What is most important now as I see is to bring the unity among the three main communities. That is also the duty of the Free Press. Sri Lanka is divided, politically and communally. The only way to jump from being a developing country, to be a developed country is to build this Unity. Everyone , principally the media should step into build this much needed unity.

As it is each group of people is more absorbed about its own welfare, without thinking of the Nation , the Country as a whole. Political parties are on their own vying against each other to be popular among the people. Journalists are critical of the Government for white van kidnappings, and the persecution of journalists. The Trade Unions are active to get salary increases, as that is the only way to bring down the cost of living.

The free press does not speak of achieved benefits, progress, and the governments future plans for development. The Tamils and Sinhala should come together to bring Sri Lanka into the new era that has commenced. There are those who seem to be worried about a Rajapakse dynasty.

We have had a Senanayake dynasty, then a Bandaranayake dynasty, and why not a Rajapakse dynasty. Is it a matter that should stop us from going ahead with our development projects. Rajapakses- Mahinda, Gotabhaya, and Basil have turned out to be indefatigable workers bent on bringing progress to our country. That is what the people want. Does it then matter that in doing so they are building a dynasty ?

The President Mahinda Rajapakse has shown that he is a man who can change things for the good of the people. He has already done much though the Free Press of Sri Lanka prodded by the International Press Agencies refuse to accept it. The President has won the confidence of the ordinary people. It is now up to those who seek to criticise, find faults and cry over split milk so to say, to stop their preoccupations and join the Rajapakses to build a new Nation of Sri Lankans.

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