Responsible media culture vital
President Mahinda Rajapaksa met
newspaper editors and electronic media heads at Temple Trees last
Tuesday. It was encouraging to see the usual weekly breakfast meeting
with media chiefs, being revived after a few months.
The President shared his thoughts with media chiefs, giving them an
opportunity to fire questions. At the end of the near two-hour meeting,
President made a humble request to the media heads.
While assuring the Government's continued policy on media freedom,
President Rajapaksa called upon them to act in a responsible manner when
publishing matters relating to national security. He did so in an
emotional and humble manner.
At the same meeting, the President said he would not hesitate to take
shelter even in a bunker, if it demands, to protect our country. It was
indeed heartening that we have such a loyal and patriotic leader as our
head of state. Emphasising that he is not willing to make any compromise
on sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, President
Rajapaksa courageously said that he would make every endeavour to
protect this his nation.
Irrespective of the media organisations we work for, it is the duty
of all media to act in a responsible manner. Especially at a time when
the Government is fighting terrorism, it's the duty of each and every
citizen to support our security forces to eliminate terrorism. At the
same time, we must remember that the battle is against the LTTE, a
ruthless terrorist group, and not against our fellow Tamil citizens,
with whom the Sinhalese, Muslims and Burghers have lived in harmony for
Over the years, some electronic and print media organisations have
acted in an irresponsible manner. Through the so-called defence columns
and programs, those newspapers and TV channels have acted in an
irresponsible manner, putting our national security at great risk. Even
sensitive matters relating to troop movements, military strategies,
recruitment and manpower, and military hardware purchases have been
often highlighted in detail under those so-called 'Sit reps'.
In certain cases, the enemy had taken advantage after obtaining
valuable information through those security news stories. We wonder,
when a nation is fighting terrorism, whether any other country would
ever tolerate this kind of irresponsible reporting.
Though those so-called movements and trade unions who pretend to
fight for media freedom are unable to understand this bitter truth, the
common masses are deeply conscious of the fact that that national
security is of utmost importance. While respecting the people's right to
know the truth and publishing, broadcasting or telecasting such for
public interest, we, as responsible mediamen should also realise that
the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity are supreme.
With due respect for our media colleagues, we would also like to
stress that the role of a responsible media organisation should not be
merely to cater to what the public demands. There are social
obligations, moral values and security matters which cannot be
compromised under any circumstances. Hence, we must be more prudent
before making military secrets public.
The media should certainly expose if there are any raw deals.
Corruption at the Defence Ministry has now been reduced to a minimum
under Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is widely regarded as
a dedicated Army officer. Even if there are any malpractices without his
knowledge, those should be exposed at a different forum, without
providing sensitive data to the common enemy - the LTTE terrorists.
The role of a responsible media during a peace process and a nation's
struggle against terrorism is crucial. They will remain an important
part of the process and their action would have a direct impact.
Responsible media must demonstrate a strong commitment to moving beyond
analysis and deeper understanding to undertake concrete action in their
respective sectors. But such action should not strengthen the enemy in
Media organisations could not only exacerbate conflict, but can also
educate the people, facilitate the peace process and even mediate and
work in conflict management. But they should respect the country's
national security at all times. The so-called media freedom should not
be abused and allowed to become a threat to national security.
This was precisely why President Rajapaksa made a fervent plea to the
media to refrain from any action which would jeopardise national
At the same time, he categorically said that the Government would
continue to respect media freedom and would even provide security to
journalists when needed.On the other hand, NGO agents and others who
make peace a business have crept into various places to achieve their
ulterior motives. The media is no exception.
That is why at times we find distorted stories in certain sections of
the print and electronic media. Such stories are being fabricated by
those agents under the patronage of some NGOs, who fill their pockets
with Euros and Dollars. Such people amongst mediamen are only a handful
but the damage they do is irreparable.
It is sad that we have to pen about some of our fellow journalists.
But the ethics of not criticising people engaged in the same trade could
not be followed under a situation like this. The sovereignty and
territorial integrity of our country takes pride of place and the
security of our country, under no circumstance, should be compromised.