18 C
Friday, July 12, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, Channel 4, review

By Serena Davies
Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields went out at 11.00pm but was a flagship news programme for Channel 4, presented by the great Jon Snow and pitched as a clarion call for the world to wake up to the war crimes that allegedly took place during the final months of Sri Lanka’s 25-year-long civil war, in 2009.
The UN’s own report on the subject, published earlier this year, has already described what it terms “credible reports” of war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government’s army against the country’s Tamil civilians. Channel 4 here provided what it introduced as corroborative visual evidence in the form of eyewitness accounts, amateur film footage, photographs and mobile phone videos.
The reason the programme went out so late was that much of this footage was horrendous to behold. The first two sections consisted mainly of amateur film of civilians, shot by the victims themselves, during or in the immediate aftermath of being shelled. It was graphic and deeply disturbing but not unlike the snippets of such imagery found in regular news bulletins. The final third of the programme – and Jon Snow warned us it would be vile – focused on mobile phone films of a series of live executions of prisoners, and the disposal and abuse of raped and mutilated bodies (most naked), filmed by the murderers themselves as trophy footage. Other soldiers could be seen filming the scenes with their phones at the same time. One video Channel 4 had shown before, most it hadn’t.

Watching these films made me retch and I wonder quite what the purpose was of viewers being exposed to such horror. Snow said he believed the films should be made public, but why to the British public? Should untutored members of another nation, one on the other side of the world and with no claims now over its former colony, be the people to bear witness to such grotesque behaviour, watching a sequence of these squalid little films and adding a final violation of the victims’ privacy? Surely they are a matter for the experts, for the international arbiters of justice and human rights. In this instance, TV, with its sensationalising soundtrack and its graphic intimacy, seemed the wrong way to present yet another reminder of man’s capacity for evil

The Telegraph


Latest news

Related news