PCC says Marie biased
Britain's Best Journalist of the Year Award winner Marie Colvin and the
London-based The Sunday Times were criticised by the UK Press Complaints
Commission for the inaccurate and one-sided articles published on Sri Lanka
last April and July and ordered them to publish prominently the findings
of the Commission.
Marie Colvin, the award-winning British journalist, for her coverage
of the Sri Lankan insurgency who crossed over to the Wanni and interviewed
Tamil Tiger leaders was wounded by a grenade shrapnel when she tried to
crawl back into government-controlled territory along with her LTTE supporters.
She wrote two articles immediately after her injury and a third while recuperating
in New York and London.
Neville de Silva, London Correspondent of The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka,
lodged a very strong protest with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC)
in London against the British newspaper when it refused to publish a letter
by him pointing out the inaccuracies and the attempt to lay the blame on
Sinhala community entirely for the anti-Tamil riots in July 1983 and the
consequent rise of the LTTE.
Other letters complaining against Marie Colvin's articles were also
ignored by the British newspaper while letters praising her for courageous
and truthful journalism were published. Another Sri Lankan Bodipala Wijeyesinghe
had also complained to the PCC when his letter too was ignored.
The PCC upheld both complaints and agreed with Neville de Silva that
the newspaper had violated two articles of the Code of Practice of the
British newspaper industry: clause 1 dealing with accuracy and clause 2
with the opportunity to reply.
While stating that Marie Colvin's reporting on the rise of the LTTE
was "inaccurate" and the methods used by the LTTE had been "inaccurately
and misleadingly reported", the PCC held with Neville de Silva that her
reports "had apportioned the Sinhalese a role in the conflict that was
not historically accurate and that the reporter's account of her surreptitious
movements into government territory having spent time with a terrorist
organisation were fundamentally biased."
The PCC is chaired by Lord Wakeham and consists of 14 others- eight
members of the public and six senior journalists including editors of leading
The Sunday Times, London delayed answering de Silva's detailed charges
against Colvin and itself by saying that the injured journalist had to
undergo surgery and recuperation and until her full recovery it was not
in a position to respond to the allegations.
Mr. De Silva protested at what he called procrastination by the newspaper
and argued that the newspaper's refusal to publish his letter of correction
had nothing to do with Marie Colvin's unfortunate state of health and that
it was a decision for the newspaper editors.
In upholding the argument the PCC in its adjudication issued last week
said: "The Code requests that editors cooperate as switfly as possible
in the resolution of complaints and while the Commission understood that
the journalist had been injured, it did not see any reason why the circumstances
prevented the newspaper from offering a fair opportunity to one of the
complainants to set the record straight, given that substantive issues
had been raised and given that the journalist had continued to publish
articles during her recuperation".
The adjudication must now be published in full and prominently by the
newspaper. However, it had not named the journalist concerned. Mr. De Silva
is expected to write back to the PCC within seven days as allowed by the
regulations, urging that Marie Colvin be mentioned by name, firstly it
is unfair to other women journalists working in that paper and secondly
because readers will not recall the events unless she is mentioned as the
Economics of counting chickens
The Sunday Times economic analysis
By the Economist
When the performance of an economy is to be judged by the number of chickens
hatched, the business of economic management cannot surely be well done.
When the number of chickens so counted is also wrong, then the integrity,
even more than the competence of the management, comes into question.
We will of course not indulge in a debate about the number of chickens
hatched, healthily living or hatched this year or in the past, to get an
assessment of the country's economic performance, when far better statistics
released by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka tell the story best. In a nutshell,
agricultural and industrial production have declined, all categories of
exports have decreased, the trade deficit is huge (although imports of
all categories have decreased), the government revenue—expenditure gap
It is well known that people are losing jobs and prices are rising.
These are the revelations of the Central Bank statistics for the first
eight months (January to September) of this year. And all these have happened
before the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that are blamed
for nearly all evils, even our power shortage. Let us elaborate with a
few summary statistics of this year's economic performance. Industrial
production fell by 12 per cent and industrial exports declined by 7.3 per
The trade deficit was US$ 760 million at the end of August; government
expenditure exceeded revenue collections by Rs. 84 billion, imports decreased
by nearly 13 per cent.
Let's try to look at the brighter side and pull out some figures that
the government might like to flaunt. The external reserves at the end of
September are somewhat higher than it was at the end of last year and in
the first few months of this year. External reserves rose by 6.7 per cent.
The trade deficit though huge at US$ 760 million at the end of August this
year, is lower than the massive deficit incurred in the first eight months
of last year, US$1095 million. Beyond this it is difficult to find some
statistics that appear to give a comforting picture of the economic performance.
Even these figures tell a story of poor economic performance. The reserves
are higher owing to a flow of external assistance and lower imports. Imports
of all categories have declined. Why? Consumer imports have declined owing
to a fall in income and sharp increases in prices. As to be expected raw
material imports have declined by 9 per cent owing to the lower industrial
production and lower prices of crude oil. Investment goods have shown the
sharpest decrease of 23 per cent. What better evidence of an economic slow-down?
The Central Bank has estimated a growth of 1 per cent for the first
half of this year. It projects growth for the entire year to remain around
this figure. The Chamber of Commerce projects a growth of only 0.6 per
cent. We will not indulge in disputes about the decimals.
Whether it is one or the other of the figures, it is clear evidence
that the economy has not only had any real growth, but also in fact declined.
The minimal growth statistic will be derived from increases in salaries
of public servants. The real sectors of the economy, agriculture, industry
and services, other than the public services are languishing.
The growth this year is in fact negative. Those who can still say, in
the light of these statistics, that the economy is sound, must themselves