Prostituting journalistic profession
Today there is a large number of
newspapers, web-based news sites, radio and television stations in Sri
Lanka. Though generally branded as Sri Lankan media, not all of them
adhere to the norms and journalistic traditions.
Thanks to the immense INGO funding and even certain foreign missions
here pumping money on the sly, some of these so-called media
organisations make a song and dance over media freedom in Sri Lanka.
Barely anyone bothers to ascertain whether these newspapers, web-based
news sites, radio and television stations in Sri Lanka respect media
ethics and act in a responsible manner.
A few newspapers published here are not true newspapers in the real
sense of the term if one were to study their contents, editorial policy
and ultimate objectives.
Some newspapers descend to an abysmal level in journalism, totally
ignoring their social responsibility and all accepted norms in
journalism. Are these ethical newspapers or mere rag sheets that 'plant'
baseless stories purely to tarnish the image of their opponents, mainly
Not all newspapers get a sizeable revenue from advertising and some
struggle to stay afloat without adequate income to meet soaring
production costs. Some newspapers are funded by those with vested
interests and INGOs so that they could impose their ideas on society
through the newspapers they fund.
Simultaneously, a 'new culture' of journalism has emerged in Sri
Lanka as we now see newspapers with an axe to grind. These journals are
more dangerous than underworld gangsters who undertake contracts to kill
people literally but descend to character assassination, especially
those whom they loathe - their political opponents.
These newspapers prostitute the profession brazenly. In the event you
wish to tarnish the image of any of your opponents or enemies, all you
do is to 'inspire' the editor of such a rag sheet, or newspaper as
'they' call it! Thereafter, a price is fixed for their dirty mission.
No sooner the 'deal' is finalised, the editor and 'suicide scribes'
of such newspapers get cracking and the following weekend, they would
'dish out' a story to satisfy the aspirations of their funding source.
They are adept at producing concocted stories.
However, only a couple of newspapers fall into this sordid category
and sully the image of the entire newspaper industry. Moreover, there
are newspapers which act in a highly responsible manner.
All newspapers need not necessarily fall in line with Government
policy. Constructive criticism, no doubt, is most welcome as such
criticism with concrete evidence would contribute to the betterment of
society in a democratic country.
Nevertheless, journalists and editors should not be allowed to sling
mud at their opponents, political or otherwise, and go scot free in the
name of media freedom. Merely because they are 'armed' with a pen,
journalists cannot be given the freedom of the wild ass. Scribes should
not run away with the idea that they have immunity and could write
defamatory and malicious stories and get away easily. By no means can
they intimidate people whom they are averse to.
There are born and trained journalists. Of late, a new breed of
'suicide journalists' have come into being. They are not real
journalists or editors but are mere 'creations' of funding agents. They
care two hoots for solid reasons or concrete evidence to initiate a
They are 'master chefs' in the trade who cook up any kind of story.
Their imagination runs wild and they pen articles predicting what would
happen in the future. They are by no means soothsayers and level wild
allegations on incidents that could transpire in the future.
The authorities should not brook such arrant nonsense and allow
'adopted' editors to intimidate senior Government officials, or anyone
else for that matter. The media has the right to highlight mistakes and
shortcomings of officials and politicians, but that does not necessarily
mean that they could act as arbitrators.
The media should be sincere and constructive in its criticism and
should desist from abusing media freedom to put their personal or
political agendas in motion.
The time is now ripe for people to identify this media mafia,
especially those who abuse their rights and privileges as journalists.
Such unprincipled editors and journalists too are answerable to the Sri
Lanka Press Council and people ultimately. All right-thinking people
would condemn such unprofessional acts in no uncertain terms.
Journalists need freedom to carry out their duties professionally.
They have the inalienable right to spotlight anything that endangers
society and expose corrupt officials and people's representatives. But
does this mean that they could use a poisoned pen to take revenge from
their opponents or the people with whom they don't see eye-to-eye?
Journalists cannot trot out excuses all the time by saying "a matter of
It was only the other day that an 'editor' of a weekend 'newspaper'
had attempted to blackmail the senior-most official of a ministry. The
journalist in question made allegations regarding an incident that would
occur in the future. If such a scenario is adopted, more scribes would
take the cue when they have nothing to write about. These misfits bring
the profession into disrepute in the name of media freedom.
Is it worth identifying such rag sheets masquerading as newspapers?
These newspapers have hardly any circulation as only a handful of
extremists get carried away by their concocted stories.
By initiating a controversy with a popular politician or a senior
official, editors and owners of such publications attempt to steal the
limelight so that more would be written in other newspapers which have a
A self-initiated confrontation with a popular figure is perhaps a
blessing in disguise for such media mafia as they attempt to exploit the
popularity of these self-same people to keep their newspapers going.
All that they need is to publish something or another to woo public
sympathy and thereby step up their circulation. The so-called bankrupt
media associations, which preferred to remain mum when the Chief Editor
of Lakbima News was attacked, seem to be more concerned about editors
who are hell-bent on blackmailing people.
This tomfoolery should be stopped forthwith to ensure the rights of
genuine journalists who use their pens in the broader interests of the
nation at large.