05 July 2011
According to the highest and most hallowed principles of the free media, their main role is to be a powerful and prophetic voice of the voiceless, marginalized or oppressed people and the instruments through which the common people especially exercise their fundamental right to the freedom of information and expression.
The media also need to play the dual role of reflecting public opinion and moulding public opinion, giving the people a balanced share of what they want and what they need to be given.
A balanced and critical overview of what is presented to the public in the media would show that some people especially VIPs, events connected to them or beneficial to them and subjects involving them are given headlines and prominence. Another disturbing negative feature is the prominence given to the largely unethical if not untruthful promotion of products by big business powers.
While the media in Sri Lanka are largely state-controlled or under self-censorship because of the threat of reprisals, criminal thuggery or intimidation, we see quite a different story in neighbouring India.
Especially after the implementation of the freedom of information act in India some years ago the Indian media have played their role powerfully and shaken the establishment mainly by exposing corruption, bribery, deception and double standards in the high places of politics and business.
Now the Indian media are leading the people’s campaign for the setting up of high powered ombudsmen in every state to speedily probe and take action against those found to be involved in corruption, bribery and other vices – be it even the executive prime minister or the ceremonial president, central cabinet ministers or chief ministers of the different states. They are also giving prominence to a campaign for radical reforms in the police service and the judicial service so that those two key institutions could play their vital role in maintaining the checks and balances of democracy along with the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance.
The Indian media have played a key role in exposing high level corruption in areas ranging from party politics and big business to sports.
Today in the jails of New Delhi are languishing the daughter of Tamil Nadu’s ousted Chief Minister Muthuvelu Karunanidhi and, a former minister who was involved in a multi million rupee telecom scam and those who illegally amassed wealth from the recent commonwealth games held in India, the Indian Premier League cricket tournament and other events.
Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, we see to a large extent the silence of the media and remember the lament of Martin Luther King Jr. – which may be the lament of our people today – that what hurts more is not the sword of the enemy but the silence of the friend.
If the fear psychosis in Sri Lanka forces the established free media to remain largely silent, we may see the emergence of the alternative new media or social media with its citizen journalists and all the dangers of unfair, inaccurate and unbalanced reporting through