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Monday, May 20, 2024

Sri Lanka: State propaganda Vs reality

Cartoon by Prageeth Eknaligoda, who was abduted and made to  disapper 3 years ago

Hana Ibrahim
The Department of Police is the country’s chief law enforcement authority. When its spokesperson comes each and every day before the mass media and relates the numerous activities and their surrounding circumstances to the public, he is taken at his word. For, the word of the Police is the ultimate. Yet, what seems to be happening is just the opposite.

The government could not have asked for a more favourable setting, whether it was its own creation or if it was a result of converging social and political realities, for a total onslaught on their ‘perceived enemies’.

In the follow up to the recent shooting incident outside the house of the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Parliamentarian Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Police Spokesman, SSP Prishantha Jayakody had reportedly claimed there was a contradiction in the statements taken with regard to the shooting, alluding to inconsistency in the evidence given.

Irked by the police backtracking, Rajapakshe, who has claimed the statement he had made to the police had been issued to the media erroneously, has threatened legal action against the police spokesman.

Rajapakshe has said when talking in Parliament regarding a case that is being heard in a court of law is prohibited, the statement such as the one made by the police spokesman amounts to a contempt of court, and charged such announcements indicate of manipulations by higher forces.

The police stance makes one wonder whether the rule of law in this country has been totally abandoned by those who govern the country.

To make matters worse, not just for the government and its main players but for the country at large, its image and the very survival of the independence of the Judiciary, a statement by ‘The Lawyers’ Collective’ deplored the ‘false propaganda’ against the Chief Justice deeming them not as isolated incidents, but “meticulously orchestrated attacks coerced and carried out at the behest of the highest in authority.”

It went on to state, “Among the false accusations intended to mislead the public, they (State-controlled media) have stated the Chief Justice had fixed the benches in the Court of Appeal. It is common knowledge the Chief Justice has no role to play in arranging any bench whatsoever in the Court of Appeal. Their insinuation the Chief Justice selected a bench to hear her case is an insult to the dignity and integrity of the Judges of the country’s higher judiciary.”

The manipulation of the news cycles is not something alien to any party in power. Yet when the State-controlled media are engaged in the manufacture of lies and half-truths and when that same State-controlled outlets are dominating a market share, and whose viewers and listeners are so gullible as has been proven time after time, one wonders as to what alternatives are left for the intellectually curious and even for those who hang around the threshold of rational inquiry.

The government could not have asked for a more favourable setting, whether it was its own creation or if it was a result of converging social and political realities, for a total onslaught on their ‘perceived enemies’.

To brand the sitting Chief Justice as an active politician and term the members of the Bar Association as conspirators is something beyond the pale. One can surely recall the malicious and utterly disingenuous campaign aired by the State-controlled television during the last Presidential Elections with grisly images of Idi Amin, the notorious Ugandan dictator. The messaging was quite obvious but in retrospect, one is invariably prompted to wonder as to what the real parallels are, if such parallels do exist.

Whatever the government has in its repertoire of capabilities, a well-oiled propaganda machine is certainly one of them. They know how to use it and drive home a point to the extent the people become accustomed to what is being produced on a regular basis by that machine. All the aces are held by the government, which has opened a ‘Pandora’s Box’. Only thing that is left for the Opposition and for the people is at the bottom of that box: ‘Hope.’
(The writer is the editor of the Ceylon Today, a daily based in Colombo, where this piece was originally appeared)


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