Blocking inconvenient truths: Time magazine and Sri Lanka

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Image courtesy Al Jazeera (AFP/Christophe Archambault)

The Face of Buddhist Terror, cover story of the most recent issue of Time magazine, is banned in Burma. Even though the lead article is primarily on U Wirathu, the leader of the 969 Buddhist Nationalist movement and only has passing reference to Islamophobia in Sri Lanka championed by fascist Buddhist “monks”, the issue is currently held up by Customs in Sri Lanka and unlikely to reach subscribers or bookstores.

Wirathu’s comments against Muslims are clearly documented, and well before this issue of Time. Equally well documented, particularly post-war, are Sri Lanka’s own fascist “Buddhist monks” – their open violence and promotion of hate, their blatant lies, the complete impunity they enjoy (even when openly caught on video), their heinous statements, the ready audience the President affords them no matter what they do and say and the all-powerful Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s close association with one of the most rabid groups, the Bodu Bala Sena (969’s local equivalent).

An online poll featured on Groundviews in April this year clearly flagged the serious and growing concerns over the Islamophobia in Sri Lanka, particularly post-war. Violence against Christians is also, disturbingly, quite prevalent.

And yet, while all this is going on within the country, it’s international media coverage that has the government in a tizzy. This is not the first time the Sri Lankan government has blocked at Customs magazines of international repute critical of the ruling regime and the country’s growing democratic deficit. Mind-bogglingly, the regime actually believes blocking copies of the magazine curtails the distribution of critical content – analog censorship operating in a digital world. As we noted when print editions of the Economist were blocked in Sri Lanka,

It is quite clear that the remnants of an arbitrary and inchoate war-time policy on censorship continues to exist and is derived, if not complemented, from the occasional inability of the government to tolerate dissenting views. In this specific case of censorship it appears that officials and the apparatchiks of the government have misinterpreted dissent towards the government as an attack on national security or worse, they may zealously believe that any dissent towards the government might actually undermine the security of the nation.

Furthermore, Gotabaya Rajapaksa recently asserted that Sri Lanka is “a democratic nation with an extremely popular political leadership that enjoys a very large electoral majority”. This begs the question as to why this same popular leadership with a large electoral majority is so nervous about articles like those in Time magazine and proceeds to censor, control and contain the spread of information?

Easily and freely available to any subscriber of Time magazine in Sri Lanka (on their mobile devices or through Time.com on the web), the The Face of Buddhist Terror reproduced below and available as a ZIP file here (11Mb). Reading it, ask the government why a single lead story, published in English, with limited circulation amongst a small socio-economic group mostly in and around Colombo or the Western Province, sans translation into Sinhala or Tamil, and moreover, easily accessed digitally, is fit to be blocked at Customs? Is the regime really this insecure?  Why does a single lead story of Time magazine upset government enough to take action and yet the fascism of “Buddhist monks”, captured in domestic media and for much longer, condoned?

Does any of this, even for ardent regime supporters, make any sense at all?

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  • http://- Justin

    Why does GOSL permit extremist Sinhala Buddhist terror in SL?

    [Edited out]

  • Chandra

    We can see parallels between the unholy alliance that has been forged between (1) GOSL leadership and Buddhist extremists in SL and (2) Taliban and Al Qaeda; and (3) US Republican Party and Christian extremists at 2012 elections.
    Two down and one to go!

  • justitia

    Sri Lanka has a ‘special’ type of ‘buddhist terror’ which maybe called “intimidation by buddha statues”.
    Buddha statues are planted overnight in public spaces – bus stands,school playgrounds,in close vicinities of hindu and muslim places of worship,on roadsides in areas where no buddhists live,
    boundaries of municipalities,bare arable lands marked for ‘takeover’
    by the army etc.

  • Safa

    Despite his holy appearance the words spoken by him are an epitome of hate and vengeance against the Rohingyha Muslims. He is against their religon, their culture and even their very existance. His words are reminiscent of the words of Adolph Hitler in ‘Mein Kampf’.

    “Look at the ravages from which our people are suffering daily as a result of being contaminated with Jewish blood. Bear in mind the fact that this poisonous contamination can be eliminated from the national body only after centuries, or perhaps never. Think further of how the process of racial decomposition is debasing and in some cases even destroying the fundamental Aryan qualities of our German people, so that our cultural creativeness as a nation is gradually becoming impotent and we are running the danger, at least in our great cities, of falling to the level where Southern Italy is to-day. This pestilential adulteration of the blood, of which hundreds of thousands of our people take no account, is being systematically practised by the Jew to-day. Systematically these negroid parasites in our national body corrupt our innocent fair-haired girls and thus destroy something which can no longer be replaced in this world.”

    It is good if people realise the danger of such insidious hate speech cloaked in the garb of religon and nationalism. These are certainly far away from the sublime teachings of the Buddha.