Colombo, Human Security, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict, Post-War

Sri Lankan media awards and Lasantha who?

Those posts written with a heavy heart have a tendency to backfire on one, and I suspect that this would have quite negative consequences on my personal relations, when read by those who are supposed to read it.

The Journalism Awards for Excellence organized by the Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lanka Press Institute was held in all its might and glory last night, as it should be. This is the Sri Lankan media equivalent of the Chillies, the Grammys, or the Oscars.

But one stark shortfall stood out in its own naked might and glory: the complete lack of mention of one of their own who fell earlier this year. Merely six months after, one would find it not too demanding, nor unreasonable, if the occasion was started with a moment of silence for those who were killed within the last year, and there were a few. But sadly, albeit not surprisingly, this was not the case.

A consensus among the members of the Editors’ Guild stands that the Sunday Leader is not a quality publication, and does not stand by standard journalism ethics. Hence the non-acceptance of nominations from Leader, last year and this. There is also a line of thought among some that Lasantha himself was not a journalist, but a politician. My personal view on the subject is that yes, at times the Leader did not seem to care much about ethics when pursuing a story, and that Lasantha was a political activist driven by the pen, who used the pen. Both traits however, are justifiable.

But for sake of argument, lets for a moment assume that the Leader is a piece of trash publication, and its editor was not worthy of honor. Statements issues by the Editors’ Guild on the day of the death contradict these assumptions that I have idiotically made, but let’s for argument sake assume.

Does that mean that the Editors’ Guild can ignore or forget the fact that an Editor of a mainstream paper was killed in broad daylight and the Government in power has done absolutely nothing productive in apprehending the culprits? Are the Editors of papers that ignorant, or has the castration of mainstream media worked that well that they can just choose to ignore facts such as this, not only in the papers that they publish, but take it a step further and try and score extra points from their puppet masters?

An argument that is brought out, in an explanation of sorts, is that since he was killed this year (in 2009), he can’t be honoured in this award ceremony. That maybe fine, if he was to be given a posthumous award of recognition. But if that is the technicality that was used to not talk about him, not stand up in a moment of silence, not acknowledge the death of an editor, then that excuse, for the lack of a better word, is lame.

Or is it that the safety of the Editors are guaranteed because instead of assigning hard hitting stories, and writing critical and analytical editorials on actual pressing issues, then choose subjects such as the fresh milk industry of Sri Lanka?

I’d personally have no media than some self-indulgent, cowardly hypocrites claiming to be most popular, widest circulated, or most read. Do the readers of the country a favour. Either add a tag-line just below the masthead of your papers that says “We are too supine to have a spine” and let the readers know that you are, in fact, powerless by choosing, or close down the papers, pack up and go home.