Protecting journalists

One may wonder whether attacks on journalists in this country are being carried out by ghosts. For, not even the entire khaki brigade has been able to nab a single assailant. The only problem with this spooky theory may be that the violent eidolons pursuing poor scribes and threatening their earthly existence are capable of operating even during daytime, considered anathema to incorporeal beings.

The UNP on Wednesday demanded a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to probe attacks on journalists. The government naturally rejected that call. It has also refused to take any action against plunderers of public assets even on the basis of damning reports by parliamentary watchdog committees like COPE and PAC! So, even if a PSC were to be set up to investigate attacks on media, how could we expect anything worthwhile to come of that exercise?

We have a massive police department maintained at a huge cost to the public purse besides a number of special outfits like the CID to assist it in investigations. There is a judiciary which has, of late, taken to activism. What needs to be done by way of dealing with the culprits responsible for attacks on media personnel is to jolt the police into conducting proper investigations, nabbing suspects and hauling them up before courts. The fact that lawmakers have had to take upon themselves the task of probing such incidents is a sad reflection on the police. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

Journalists should beware of parliamentarians or politicians of all hues masquerading as messiahs. All of them have a history of suppressing media freedom and assaulting or murdering media personnel. When Richard de Zoysa was abducted and brutally murdered, he was vilified posthumously in the same Parliament where protests are now being made against the assassination of Lasantha and assault on Jayantha. Depending on politicians to protect journalists is like entrusting the safety of game to hunters! Politicians do only two things to media persons: When in power they use bludgeons on journalists and when out of power they use journalists as bludgeons.

Media personnel are not alone in the predicament of being denied justice, which has become a rarity in this country owing to the subjugation of the police, the judiciary and the public service as a whole to the whims and fancies and political interests of governments in power. How can one expect justice in a country with a conviction rate of only four per cent and with every scoundrel in politics?

If parliamentarians are really desirous of helping journalists function free from threats and attacks, there is one thing they should do. They should put their house in order. The day they desist from interfering with the police and the judiciary and other branches of the State service, shielding criminals and indulging in criminal activities to retain or gain power, we may be able to regain Paradise Lost so that all Sri Lankans including the endangered journalists, will be happy and free.

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