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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Assault, abduction and assassination of free media

Uthayan News Editor, Gkanasundaram Kuganathan, is not the first of his kind to end up on a hospital bed — nor will he be the last. Like his predecessors who had to go beyond the boundaries of hospitals and into their graves, and even go missing without a trace, Mr. Kuganathan would soon be just another number in the county’s media casualty records.

However much protests are called, vigils are organized and candles are lit, the freedom to write and report the truth has been a long lost privilege of the country’s journalists. Even though, newspapers, television, and radio channels depend on teamwork, journalism has always been an isolated profession, which calls on oneself to bear the brunt for what he or she unearths for the public.

People, though however much they say they love the truth, will only love a part of it. Truth is not as easily swallowable as fantasy; it tends to throw people off balance. Truth does not smoothen the rough edges. This is the reason why no one loves the absolute truth.

Truth disrobes the devils who wear the robes of saints; it unveils the nudity of injustice and incongruities of the rulers. A journalist in a democratic country is a person who is answerable to its people, not to their representatives in the regime. His duties are for the commoners who make the country what it is. His mission is to unmask the masked political hypocrites. In a scenario like this, certain powerful minorities, who do not love the truth as much as the people who are eager to know it, would not only find it fit to destroy the byline of the disturbing truth but also its owner, with it. Brutalities against journalists in a liberated land are much more ominous than those reported in battlefronts where death is as sure as the bullets that stutter back and forth.

Barely a week after the election results were released, the reported assault on the Uthayan News Editor right under the noses of the security forces in the newly liberated northern capital, leaves behind so many questions that demand immediate answers. The alarming records only go to show that, no matter whether it is a busy street in Colombo or an isolated alley in Jaffna, the forces that aim at shooting the messengers are ever so threatening. Liberating a country from a terror outfit not only means the bangs of bombs will become history but it also should mean that the people’s right to know the truth and the journalists right to reveal the truth are aptly ensured and secured by those who swear by their lives to look into the public welfare. 

But the fact remains that those who bring forward the truth without tassels and frills and stand on their graves while holding the mirrors, are the ones who are in real danger. Their ethics may not be those that pat the government on the back. Their reporting may not accord with the unspoken standards declared by the governments as to what news or information should be. The truth they report may be in the most unsophisticated state but that does not justify a single assassination, abduction or an assault carried out on journalists.

Suppressing the dissent in any regime is a clear sign of dictatorship. However, a journalist who criticizes the wrong-doings of certain individuals or groups does not do it out of personal hatred; rather his voice is a representation of that of the ordinary man who has the last say in the matter. His voice is heard because he is brave enough to raise it on behalf of the voiceless and the muzzled.

Journalists should be given bravery awards in addition to the journalism awards for excellence for their fearlessness to go unarmed and without bulletproof jackets in view of dangers that are looming along with their profession. Their liberation will dawn only when the faceless goons bred by the political hierarchy are disarmed and the messengers are armed with the right to live while writing the truth.


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