In defence of the mass media : a reply to PM



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The Prime Minister wants to know why the media is criticizing the present government and why it isn’t criticizing the Rajapaksas on whose watch journalists were killed. Perhaps that is because the media recalls that two prominent journalist were killed when the Rajapaksas weren’t anywhere near the room at the top, but two pillars of Yahapalana were.


The first such journalist was Richard de Zoysa and the second was DP Sivaram (‘Taraki’). The first was killed when the present PM was a powerful Minister and the second when Chandrika was President.


Now this is not to imply that either politician had anything to do with these murders. It is doubtless entirely coincidental that HR Piyasiri, the Minister of Labor of the UNP government of the day, read out extracts from Richard’s diary in Parliament, in the debate on his murder. One wonders how that diary came into his possession; who gave it to him and suggested that he reads it out. One also wonders who gave the diary to the person who gave it to HR Piyasiri, and where the diary came from.


It is also perfectly possible, indeed probable that neither Richard de Zoysa nor DP Sivaram were killed because of their journalism i.e. because they were journalists. It is likely that they were targeted because of their perceived affiliations during the times of intense civil wars, South and North.


But all that would be true of the journalists killed on the Rajapaksas watch too. If Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunga can be given the benefit of the doubt about the deaths of Richard de Zoysa and DP Sivaram, then so too should the Rajapaksas about the deaths of journalists.


And if Richard and Sivaram were killed not in their capacity as journalists but for their affiliations and perceived roles, then the same can be said of the journalists who were killed during the Rajapaksa tenure.


All these deaths took place in the decades-long context (during and in the immediate aftermath) of Sri Lanka’s civil wars on two fronts, and civil wars within civil wars. To reiterate: if Ranil and Chandrika, those Yahapalana stalwarts, can be exculpated for Richard and Sivaram, why not the Rajapaksas for the others? What’s sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander?


Dayan Jayatilleka, PhD


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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