The Sunday Leader

Tinsel “Stars,” The Fourth Estate And The “Big Lie”

Every Sunday, you buy the lie.” began The Sunday Leader editorial, last week. “You buy the lie that this is a functioning media” it then said. A slap across the face of the media, if it wants to wake up and look in a mirror. A week before that on October 10, “This submissive and biased media with SF” was what crowned my column in The Sunday Leader.

The murder of Founder Editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge is also part of the media history the SLPI, the TEG and the NSSL would have to carry as their baggage load

“None of the media personnel working in this new media culture ever think they need to organise themselves for professional rights and a professional life,” I wrote, in the concluding paragraph of that column.
The Sunday Leader said, you buy the lie on Sunday? Why Sunday only? It’s not only Sunday and its not only the newspapers. It’s a daily “big lie” now, in both print and electronic media. It’s taken for granted by this society that, what is served is what should be digested. This society has no conscience, no will to fight back, demanding independence of the media and its right for factually correct information.
This damn “big lie” is also not the sole work of the journalist who does the rounds. It’s more, that of the editor. It’s not the editor alone, who makes and serves the “lie” for the daily reader and viewer. It’s the owner and publisher too, who depend on this Rajapaksa government for their wheeler dealing. It is thus a vicious combination, where the journalist becomes the target, while the editor and the owner/publisher go unseen and is never held responsible for the packeted lies, sold daily.
They have their own associations, The Editors’ Guild (TEG) and the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka (NSSL), apart from those five media organisations purported to be that of journalists. TEG and the NSSL are two collaborative partners of the now seven-year-old Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) that boasts of a much longer history, going back to what they call “The Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility” of 1998. So they claim, they are in fact 12 years by now. That was just four years after The Sunday Leader hit the news stands. It was a few years after Lasantha Wickrematunge moved his often controversial political column, written under the pen name “Suranimala,” from The Sunday Times to The Sunday Leader.
Within these 12 years, despite the proud claims by these collaborators of SLPI, in supporting the media and the official claim in the website that SLPI has become (quote) “the centre of almost all advocacy programmes with its active involvement and the advocacy and free media campaigns” (unquote) (with emphasis added), Nimalarajan is no more and for 10 years, there is no “killer” brought to justice. Media freedom had been ruthlessly suppressed with threats on journalists, abductions as in the case of Keith Noyahr and many killings begun in the North and spreading to Colombo, especially during the height of the war.
There were arbitrary detentions as in the case of Parameswari and then Tissainayagam, Jesiharan and his wife, who were subsequently remanded and indicted. The MTV and MBC station complex was attacked and was partly set on fire, while The Sunday Leader press and office was also attacked. Lasantha Wickrematunge, Founder Editor of The Sunday Leader was thereafter gunned down in broad day light in a high security area. These are also part of the media history, the SLPI, the TEG and the NSSL would have to carry as their baggage load, within the claim the SLPI makes for advocacy and free media campaigns. This they would now have to add. The present The Sunday Leader Editor, Frederica Jansz is compelled to have special security, due to threats on her life.
Despite their claim in cyberspace, they have been conspicuously absent on the ground, during all these incidents and tragedies that have helped fashion the present day “Big Lie Media”. The SLPI advocacy has never included the right of media personnel to organise themselves. None of the owners/publishers allow their journalists to have pro active associations with trade unions. The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) in that sense, is no more an organisation that works towards media freedom and the rights of journalists.
None of these organisations and associations have on their own and as SLPI, worked towards bringing the electronic media into any form of responsible association within a common, responsible media practice. As a media watchdog, a regulator and as a resource development agency, the SLPI has never taken the issue of employees in media institutions and companies whose basic right to association and organise, have been violated forthright by those who form its governing board.
Non unionised and deprived of (quote) “….. the right freely to form and join groups for the promotion and defence of their occupational interests. This basic human right goes together with freedom of expression” (unquote) as defined by the ILO for “all workers and all employers” in the “Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining”, this media can never be free of “lies” and “big lies” and threats to its functional existence. This media can never ever expect to have professional media men and women working in it, what ever the type of journalists the SLPI turns out with certificates from their ‘College of Journalism.’
The Free Media Movement (FMM), the other media organisations and the SLWJA too have let down the new generation of young men and women who have stepped into media, by ignoring their fundamental right to organise. They themselves have not worked towards winning these journalists as members. This has left a huge lacuna in this “Fourth Estate”, with journalists left out of “collective bargaining” for their service and professional well being, that even estate workers now enjoy and the ILO accepts as its “solemn obligation to further among the nations of the world programmes which will achieve … the effective recognition of the right of collective bargaining” (ILO, 1998a, pp. 23-24).
This leads us to the question, “can the total media that is deprived of its right to organise, have no common standards and ethics established and has organisations that only live with bogus claims, provide for a free, independent and a fair media that stands for professional exercise of its duties and responsibilities?” In short, can a media that does not even have an interest in its own professional life, have an interest in maintaining a free and independent media?  This is a media where the owner/publisher does not bother to stand for the rights of its own employee as a journalist to be free from death threats, abduction, physical harassments and possible killing, for what he or she faces, while working on assignments given for the day.
This is a media where the editor did not and still does not bother what risks a journalist runs into, as long as TEG could remain in the good books of the ruling “gentlemen” and this regime. This therefore remains a media, where the young would love to be “celebrities” and thus work on that and not on their professional skills and knowledge. We have thus helped a “star studded” media that runs on the strength of its “tinsel stars”. The type, William Butler Yeats once said, he hates, because “journalists have nothing in them, but tittering, jeering emptiness.” What therefore could one wish to have, except Sunday “lies” and daily “big lies” from this type of newspaper associations, editors’ guilds and men and women who have no basic rights for them, that adds up as our media?  What else please?

2 Comments for “Tinsel “Stars,” The Fourth Estate And The “Big Lie””

  1. billy

    how come u forgot the foreign funded NGO stooges who write bogus lies everyday in discrediting this counrty and trying to destabilize it…have u tried looking at a mirror ye self?

  2. Rampi

    SAME AS YOUR NEWSPAPPER Big lies & looking for unwanted garbage stories that no one interest, just hunting to damage your political opponents in the government. Specially Rajapaksa family.
    What else in your newspaper to read?

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