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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 centuries.

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 any way.

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 security.

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.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
www.canreach.com
www.icicibank.lk
www.srilankans.com
Sri Lanka
Kapruka - www.lanka.info
www.news.lk
www.defence.lk
www.helpheroes.lk/
www.peaceinsrilanka.org
www.army.lk
 

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