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Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

By
Faraz
Shauketaly

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ is an old adage usually used to suggest that whilst force may hurt one, words did not matter. This saying came to the fore especially this week, with significant changes at Leader Publications, owners of The Sunday Leader.
Many were the suggestions that the newspaper had all but done an u-turn. Many clearly chose to ignore the role this rag has played in the past 18 years of the country’s history. It is an unalienable record.
The newspaper has not simply been anti-government of the day – and it has applied its same principles to the UNP during its brief tenure in 2001-2002 – rather it has sought to hold those with responsibility accountable in the eyes of the people and the law. It has been as one with the maha janathawa. And how.
The history of the Leader is as checkered as it is likely to ever be. Through some tumultuous times in 18 years – that at times must have seemed a veritable roller-coaster – there has probably never been a dull moment for its staff. Attacks on its then Editor, his family, a sealing of the press, public vilification by the Executive President Mrs Kumaratunga, burning of the press and the killing of its founding Editor are some of the more significant timelines. No one enjoyed these transgressions but it appeared on the road the Leader chose to traverse upon. A member of its staff said, “working at the Leader was not a job. It was a way of life.”
The charges on its various cost centres was immense: advertising was never easy and finding operating capital was tough but nowhere near the impact Lasantha Wickremetunge’s death had on the cost-centre of the Leader’s resolve to stand firm by its fiercely independent stance. A measure of that impartial stance shone like a flawless diamond when President Kumaratunga personally called and asked to be interviewed for the Sunday Leader – after she had left office and when no one it appeared would bother with her. Life it must have seemed had travelled a full circle.
The Leader’s very specific market is those seeking accountability and demanding that justice be seen to be done as much as justice is done. The realistic will appreciate this as long as there is a clear distinction between the libellous and responsible public-interest focused articles. The fact that the Leader survived all through various trials and tribulations is proof positive that the Leader has lived up to its markets’ expectations.
The Leader has almost always been perceived as ‘anti-government’. This notion could only have come about because for much of the past 18 years the reins of power has been held by the one political alliance and the mainstream opposition has been in that position except for a brief period in early 2001. The Leader has championed causes dear to the people of the country and the quest for truth, justice and fairplay has been its raison d’etre for survival. The ascendancy of President Rajapaksa was heralded in its Editorial by welcoming the new President by his first name – never before done. Trailblazing was the Leader’s forte. The number of awards won by the Leader and its staff bears testimony to the success the newspaper had. Of course by the very nature of its focus it made a lot of people unhappy but we dare say it made an awful lot more, comfortable that the Leader was there – just in case.
There is nothing to suggest that success in the hotly competitive print media industry dictates a personal attack on members of the ruling administration. Reporting on matters of excess and holding responsible persons and organisations accountable has resulted in a number of ‘enemies’ being created. The Leader did not view it as ‘enemies’ – that was a perception the recipients heaped on themselves. Indeed, a very long time before Julian Assange and Wikileaks arrived into our living rooms, the Leader had trailblazed the path of accountability and responsibility with its investigative reporting. The political column was keenly awaited by all – diplomats, government ministers and the Opposition too. No one it appeared had as many connections than the Leader had in its network of supporters. Some in authority and others without any responsibility, claimed not to read the Leader; however, both sets of these species could quote chapter and verse from the Leader of that week.
Equally, there is nothing to suggest in the brief of the Editorial that the Opposition is excused from being called to book. Far from it – as no doubt a candid Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sajith Premadasa, Karu Jayasuriya, Dr Jayalath Jayawardena and Ravi Karunanayake may care to admit, if they were to play a straight bat. The Leader Editorial has always been permitted to be independent of its Management although there have been memorable lapses and heated difference of opinion when paths have crossed and at times the Publisher’s vision for the newspaper was made blurred to the point of blindness and madness. The Leader’s specific market is difficult to do a U-turn with but considerably easier to enhance by maintaining its independent, accountability-orientated, investigative stance. A good musician they say, plays to his audience – and ours has been one of being unbowed and unafraid of the truth. Those may well be lofty ecclesiastical ideals but it has been the only road for The Leader.
True courage consists of doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our fellow men. However much ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ is a ‘given’, nothing helps focus one’s mind as delivery – as opposed to promise – which lies in the netherworld of hope.  In that spirit our record has spoken for itself in the past and who is to say the future will be any different. The proof of course is in the delivery of our market expectation. Only time can tell – although all of us can tell the time.
(faraz@thesundayleader.lk)

6 Comments for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

  1. VICTOR

    LEADER IS THE ONLY MEDIA IN SRI LANKA WHICH HAS NOT SOLD ITS CONSCIENCE.

  2. As if I care

    I hope so and keep my fingers crossed buddy.Faraz
    Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy for a loan oft loses both itself and friend.

  3. Ashiq Lafir

    Faraz we have seen you and Federica Jan’s taking journalism to the lowest level one can imagine, over the last few years. Just because you have control over a papers and just because innocent readers usually believe what is printed it doesn’t give a right for a journalist to misuse the power of pen to throw mud at people as and when you wish and make a living out of that. Can you publicly declare that you do not run a secretive PR consultancy service for clients in need basically threatening and collecting money from those who are under attack by your paper. Can you openly declare that you have never offered this service to the very people you have been investigating and arguably exposing in your own way ? We have noticed the pattern of your attacks and we have seen how suddenly your attacks disappear on some people and continue on others. Isn’t it because these in second category did not hire your dubious PR consultancy firm ?

    • As if I care

      Ashiq Lafir just like SLMC the post pubescent pervert school teacher try the next stag night till then KYBMS.

  4. hasindu

    The Sunday Leader cannot be pro-government. That is like creating a suicide situation. So it looks like they will tone their rhetoric down but continue to expose everyone except the royle famile. thats ok its better than having NO ONE. so good luck to the sahkuntala perera team

  5. Faraz Shauketaly

    Lafir:
    I can openly state that you are talking a whole lot of rubbish. I invite you to provide me with details of the people you say “We have noticed the pattern of your attacks and we have seen how suddenly your attacks disappear on some people and continue on others.” If you have the balls please provide the details.Yes I can openly state that the so-called ‘service’ you refer to is a figment of your imagination.
    Who are these peop[le whose ‘attacks’ have been stopped? Are you able to provide unalienable proof of your wild claims? Is it because you are an absolute nutcase that you hide behind an annonymous e-mail address? what are you afraid of? Being exposed by the Sunday Leader, or me or what!! Why the need for secrecy?
    Faraz

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