The Akon rumpus, with all its nutty and freaky sides, did have one thing good about it. It raised the question, â€œwhat is media freedom ?” Except for â€œ”Sirasa”” and its group channels, none of the mainstream media, ever bothered to investigate into this Akon show unplugging and expose the lumpen politics, that had a media institute mobbed and stoned once again, under this regime.
The mainstream print media over the past two or three days, reported on producing 16 men in Colombo magistrate courts by police and bailing them out, in relation to this mob attack. They carried excerpts of statements from all who condemned the Akon show and briefly noted the MBC/MTV Colombo office attack was condemned by some. This print media wants the reader to accept, their responsibility is over with that.
The electronic visual media was even worse. Their coverage in all channels excluding the State run, that in any way won’t be independent and “Sirasa” doing its own publicity, did not provide that was worthy of news and was there only to report on court decisions. There was one private channel that played proxy to the State as well.
The question is, what more freedom or independence does the media need, if the role it plays in society, is just this negative and limited ?
The choice of Akon as the super star attraction in the show â€œSuper fest 2010” that was organised for 24 April at the SSC Stadium, Colombo, is another that needs to be publicly discussed. What branding can Sri Lanka have for tourism promotion with such a controversial artiste in his own country, is open for serious questions in the media.
But, that does not and should not deny an exposure of the mob attack on MBC/MTV right now. The issue, who was behind the mob attack which targeted the Braybrooke place office and why, needs to be laid bare in all media, for the benefit of the society. This society has a right to know all details and without bias. That needs an independent media no doubt. If the media outside State control claims it is independent and not being partial with State politics, that then is their responsibility.
Such media would have to first clear the case for the public, as to who exactly is responsible for this show. No media so far has factually revealed the organiser(s) of this Akon show and who the sponsors are. No media has to date made it clear to the public, the role of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) in this event, as they officially sat at the media brief, announcing the event. The SLTPB is one of the 4 State organisations established under the Tourism Act 38 of 2005. Its MD at the Cinnamon Grand media brief explained as to what the SLTPB expects from this Akon show and said they have the SriLankan Airlines to facilitate Indian and Maldive tourists who would want to visit the show.
Where then does the company â€œPlatinum Entertainment” which claims they booked in Akon for the show, fit in ? The media again has a responsibility to explain to the public, their shared roles with SLTPB, in this now denied entertainment.
The media also had a responsibility to investigate as to why the MBC/MTV office was attacked instead of the Tourism Ministry or the SriLankan Airlines, a co-sponsor of the event.
The Colombo Fort Magistrate had ordered the MTV to hand over all footage of the attack to the Slave Island police for further investigations. Most of those footage were aired by “Sirasa” on Wednesday (25 March) in their news bulletins. “Sirasa” in fact claimed they identified some goons in the visuals.
There were therefore enough photos and enough information available at hand, if any news paper, any news channel ever wanted to take this issue of media bashing in public and respect the right of the reader, the viewer, to have unbiased and uncensored information. If the media respected the right for freedom of expression.
But the media did not and why not ? This is for media organisations to investigate. Media organisations that ask for media freedom, ask for freedom of expression and right for information, should start asking their colleagues, why they don’t act professional in exercising their responsibilities.
There are obvious reasons for such timid behaviour of this Sri Lankan media. Some are justifiable and within limits. Yet the fact remains, it is not only political coercion that makes the media timid. It is also the media culture that prefers to avoid responsibility which restricts such exposure. A media culture that prefers to sensationalise social issues that avoids responsible reporting.
In a society like this Sri Lankan society that festers and degenerates at all levels, that corrupts all systems, it would be futile to expect any profession with any integrity. In a society where the Oath of Hypocrites is unknown to the medical profession, it would be unfair to demand an impeccably clean and responsible media. A media that would take up the challenge of playing professional and honest at any cost.
That being difficult, it does not mean the decline should be allowed. It is therefore necessary now to seek a â€œpress button” that would pause this decline and provide time for a turn around. If the Akon show that was mobbed to a stop could play simulator for such, then thank him, the â€œKonvict”, the â€œTroublemaker”.