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The continuing disinformation campaigns in Sri Lanka: Is mainstream media complicit?

25 May, 2011
For the second time in a fortnight, subscribers to the Daily Mirror newspaper have been entreated to an interesting disinformation campaign that appears to be conducted with those embedded within, and possibly with the full support of the Sri Lankan Army and its network of patriots.

The full page ad above was published on the Daily Mirror on 23rd May. A high resolution scan can be downloaded here. At the bottom, the advertisement is attributed to the ‘Free Mass Media Movement’. No such movement exists, or has existed. With the clear intention to obfuscate rather than enlighten, the name is a spin off from the Free Media Movement, which for a variety of reasons, is well known to government and also amongst media freedom activists.

To be fair, the concerns expressed therein about the handling of Osama Bin Laden’s murder raise very serious concerns over the ability of the United States to practice the very policies and practices it preaches abroad, including to our own government. The disconnect between advice and action is stark, but fundamentally, the space for robust, critical discussion and debate within the US over its government’s actions is far greater than the space in Sri Lanka, even post-war.

What is most curious about this ad is that within the text, there is reference to an ‘International Accountability Network’. To reiterate, while the ad itself is attributed to the ‘Free Mass Media Movement’, the text refers to the ‘International Accountability Network’. It was this same ‘network’ that on 11 May 2011 ran a full page ad against the UN Secretary General Panel that looked into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka. We did some digging and tellingly found that the sole member of the ‘network’ we could find was the person who set up what is a largely dysfunctional site. When we exposed him, he proceeded to take his CV off the web, but not before we saved a copy of it. As we noted before,

    The ’International Accountability Network’ is a fascinating, recent creation. It was registered late March 2011 by an individual called Chirasthi Perera. The domain name record notes the registrant as one Arnold Chira, though a simple Google search of the associated email (a Gmail account) reveals the real name, and a personal website which has his CV. Clearly, the man has some technical training, but particularly revealing is that the one non-related referee noted in the CV is Dr . Thiran De Silva, Head Of IT, Sri Lanka Army along with the fact that this individual is currently a Web Consultant/Trainer to Sri Lanka Army. The ’International Accountability Network’ website is, politely put, a dysfunctional mess with content largely automatically generated from various web (RSS) feeds. The little human curation of this content suggests that the site’s owner seeks to expose the double-standards of the US in supporting the UN Panel’s report in light of the events surrounding the murder of Osama Bin Laden. Absolutely no details about what is exactly is ‘international’ about this ‘network’. Few of the links on the site in fact work. This is most unfortunate, because Chirasthi Perera is associated with other leading sites like Colombo Fashion (as its CEO), Sri Lanka: Awake in a Miracle (sic) and the yet to be launched Colombo Night Life, sites that are clearly about issues of war crimes, crimes against humanity, justice and accountability. Not.

In sum, there is no network, there is no real interest in accountability and there is nothing really international about it other than the money which could have flowed in from ‘patriotic’ diaspora individuals and networks to fund the ad campaign.

In fact, The Hindu paper called this a “mocking ad” of President Obama. Speaking of The Hindu, something quite peculiar happened there as well. Sri Lanka mocks Obama, Ban Ki-Moon was the headline of a story that was published on its website on 23 May 2011, around 14:59:28 GMT. The original URL of the story was http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article2041735.ece. It has since been deleted. Though we cannot say exactly when it was deleted, the Google Cache version of it appears here.



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