Colombo, Media and Communications

Militarizing the Media Mahagedera?

The news that a retired SLA General is considered as chairperson of Rūpaváhini (SLRC) comes as a terrifying antidote to the remaining freedom of expression in the decomposing democracy in Sri Lanka. The background leading to this decision and the way the current regime has decided to respond is a decisive reflection of the strategies preferred by the rules of Lanka and their advisors.

There is little doubt, that media is one of the most interactive civic passages in any modern secular democracy. It is for this reason that illiberal and anti democratic rulings is often reflected in their desire to manipulate and construct a pretentious freedom. Dictatorship towards media is an early sign of a rule that has a demonstrative desire to destabilize the stronghold infrastructures of a working democracy.

Rūpaváhini, the national visual identity of the state of Sri Lanka has had a chronic history in managing and fulfilling its mandate as an agency between the demos and their govermentality. To my limited experience except for a very brief period of 1996-1998, when experiments that are more liberal were tested, the SLRC had failed in number of areas even without a comparative study with other similar regional or international agencies. So how is it that a gift from Japan to advance the democracy in Sri Lanka, today has turned to a virtual battleground to secure the fast decomposing democratic virtues?

In the post 9/11 securitization agenda of the west, media became one of the most endangered areas of controls established. The way the invasion of Iraq and its results were constructed and then conveyed by media is a pernicious punishment suffered by the western democracies in the recent history. Sure, it has established its postcolonial barrowings in the SAARC region particularly in Pakistan, Maldives and in Sri Lanka. It is a well established political fact that the correlation between a militarization of a rule and the control of media is reciprocal and interdependent (Regan 1994: 45-58) The state control of media in Israel and the politicization of media in the USA in general under the Bush administration are few empirical examples (Lutz 2002: 723-735, Pappe 2002: 46-51)

Killing the Brains-Burying the Bodies
If mass media is the network of nerves and the active cells between the brain and rest of the body of a living democracy, the erosion and the tigerish terror that is bestowed on working journalists in Sri Lanka is the contemporary shame of the sixty years of ‘independence.’ This heinous attitude continues amidst of many international reports and calls for attention. Unfortunately, for the wider democracy in Sri Lanka, the power centres who could bring upon a compulsion on the current condition and their creators, have failed to go beyond mere statements of worry. This, then become the right and responsibility of the socio-civic agenda in a recovering democracy. The democratic implementation of media very particularly in an interwoven ethnonational conflict condition becomes signatures of the controllers how they prefer to have the intra-democracy reshaped. The largely Sinhala Buddhist journalists of the south who have suffered in the recent past for their apparent disloyalty is a definite point of departure on the ugliness constructed by the neo-nationalists in Colombo and their paid agents from Geneva to Gangodawila.

On the other hand, the courage in Colombo to militarize not just the national consciousness but also all its remaining apparatus could be a beginning of an end. In its blood soaked recent political history there are, humble efforts by of now mostly forgotten journalists like Lakshman Giribawa, who courageously reported on the gruesome murder of the teens in Ambilipitiya was the first stone thrown on the crown of another despotic regime. As argued by Van Belle (1997), there are ample evidence of the fall of rules that desires to control the media undemocratically with an overwhelming influence on journalists, the content of the news, and the domestic political costs of war. Kant based his model of a perpetual peace on this. The control and any immediate political benefits gained over weights the long-term results received from engaging in conflict with media in the manner, the Chinthanaya has done so far. In that sense, it is not in the hands of the rules, but largely with the respondents how a perishing democracy is preserved. Our hope is that the journalists in Sri Lanka will build wider comradeship and play the crucial role to transform the conditions that are rightly deserved by the future of this island.

Patrick M. Regan, ‘War Toys, War Movies, and the Militarization of the United States, 1900-85’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Feb., 1994), pp. 45-58

Catherine Lutz, ‘Making War at Home in the United States: Militarization and the Current Crisis,’ American Anthropologist, September 2002, Vol. 104, No. 3, pp. 723-735

Ilan Pappe, ‘Donning the Uniform: The Military and the Media in Israel,’
Middle East Report, No. 223 (summer, 2002), pp. 46-51

Douglas A. Van Belle, ‘Press Freedom and the Democratic Peace,’ Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 34, No. 4, 405-414 (1997)