Media Secy, police spokesman concerned over ‘hasty coverage’

Koslanda landslide tragedy


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Media Secretary Charitha Herath yesterday cited recent media coverage of the Koslanda landslide tragedy as a glaring example of inadequacy on the part of both print and electronic media.

Herath alleged a section of the media had been in such an inordinate hurry that unsubstantiated casualty figures were given wide publicity. Responding to a query by The Island, Herath asserted that in spite of having the state-of-the-art equipment, the media hadn’t enhanced its capacity to verify facts.

Herath said that within hours of last Wednesday’s tragedy, the media had placed the number of men, women and children missing at over 300. Within five days, police headquarters brought the number of missing down to 38.

The official recollected the circumstances under which a section of the local media propagated Channel 4 News claims that the Sri Lankan military had massacred over 40,000 civilians during the final phase of the Vanni assault in May 2009. Such unsubstantiated allegations finally had found their way into the UNSG Ban ki-moon’s panel of experts’ report that dealt with accountability issues here, Herath said.

Media Secretary Herath stressed the responsibility on the part of the media to confirm whatever information available to them without causing uncertainty. Asked whether he was directing his criticism at the social media, Herath expressed concern over the mainstream media.

Police spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana said that he faced unenviable task of explaining the discrepancies in figures given by the local media and information released by police headquarters in respect of the Koslanda tragedy.

Addressing the media at police headquarters on Sunday, SSP Rohana said that investigations by the police station around the disaster site had established that the number of disappeared or believed to buried alive was 38 men woman and children. "Of them, bodies of eight, including a female child were recovered. Altogether, there were six bodies of females, including that of a child and two male bodies."

According to SSP Rohana, the majority those who had been buried alive/dead were women. Responding to a query, police spokesman said that unsubstantiated media coverage could cause irreparable damage. The official said that correct position could have been given if the media reached police headquarters.

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