Colombo, Human Rights, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict

Manufacturing claymores in the Sinhala media – Media ethics withering on the vine

The 14th of August was an eventful day. According to the Sinhala media, the Police “discovered” claymores and explosives at the Ideal Lodge in Wellawatte on this day. As was discovered later, Ideal Lodge is also where 7 of the petitioners in the Supreme Court case against the unlawful and reprehensible eviction of Tamils from Colombo by the Chief of Police and this government reside.

Several interesting aspects of the Sinhala media coverage of this incident are evident to the keen reader. As noted in my article in detail through direct quotes from headlines, the reporting was overwhelming sensational. Four leading Sinhala dailies stated that the LTTE was responsible for the explosives that were “discovered” without quoting a single source. What is more, there were several discrepencies in the reporting.

Lankadeepa said the suspect did one thing. Dinama says another. Lakbima contradicts both. Divaina contradicts all of them.

So much for the suspect! But there’s also huge variance in the nature and quantity of explosives “discovered”. Each newspaper has a different tally of explosives.

Lankadeepa goes further and quotes an unnamed Police source as having given details of the suspect. Problem is, also quoting an unnamed Police source, Lakbima gives a wholly different story on the suspect! Not to be outdone, Dinamina goes on to concoct a completely fictitious story on human rights cases brought against the Police by the residents of the lodge.

Who can tell us the truth? The Editor Guild perhaps? I think not. As I go on to point out through an article in Ravaya, the pertinent facts in this case were never reported in the Sinhala media.

What is more, as was brought out in Parliament and also by the Civil Monitoring Committee, it is evident that the “claymore” “discovered” on the 14th of August was a crude way of pressuring those who were petitioners in the case against the unlawful eviction of Tamils from Colombo to retract their case. What is surprising and disturbing however is that not a single of the newspapers flagged in my article carried the statements of the CMC or those made by Lakshman Kiriella in Parliament.

So what’s the use of media ethics and of Editors Guilds?

Download my full article in Sinhala here or read it online on Vikalpa.