The Commonwealth Press Union (CPU) which is representative of the
press of 54 member nations paid a much deserved resounding tribute
to the new government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for its
commitment to press freedom.
The CPU was in the vanguard of the fight-back by editors and working
journalists, and publishers standing shoulder to shoulder in recent
years when the government of the day resorted to every archaic law
in the book, and every baton in its possession to pummel the press
correctly, the resolution passed unanimously by the CPU on Friday
at the conclusion of its celebrations, in Sri Lanka, left out some
of the interesting issues that the Prime Minister broached during
his speech at the opening ceremony a few days earlier.
The Prime Minister
said 'The balance between seeking greater media freedom, and ensuring
that those who wish to oppose the peace process do not misrepresent
the government, is a challenge that has to be faced by both the
government, and the media. Neither of us can stay away from this
In the paragraph
that was preceding this quote, he was referring to the publication
of unsubstantiated news, as well as deliberate misrepresentation
of issues, saying this could damage the peace process. While there
is no question that publication of unsubstantiated news and deliberate
misrepresentation of facts definitely cannot and should not pass
muster, is the long list of publication of substantiated news, such
as the import of a duty free radio station by the rebel LTTE, the
opening of law courts, and the imposition of taxes etc., to be similarly
fears of the dismemberment of this nation be treated as 'deliberate
misrepresentation of the facts?" On the other hand, couldn't
the despatch of party MPs to Singapore when constitutional reforms
granting greater autonomy to the North and the East are pending,
be 'causing serious damage to the peace process?" Also, when
the government's chief negotiator G. L. Peiris tells the Commonwealth
delegates that the LTTE is transforming itself from a terrorist
organisation to a political party, is it an act of 'opposing the
peace process'' if one asked which political party in Sri Lanka
smuggled in anti-aircraft weapons? Will that be to oppose the peace
Mass Communications Minister Imtiaz Bakeer Markar told delegates
at the Kandy CPU sessions that "democracy may just be the victim
of its own success.''
the view that this was partly due to people's expectations reposed
upon various governments to deliver the goods, and partly due to
the searchlight of the media highlighting the failures of government.
In a sense, this take on democracy is true. Democracy can self destruct,
particularly when one is dealing with an organisation that is fascist
by its very nature.
While we all
dwell on the rather esoteric minutiae of the workings of democracy,
one man maintains a stony studied silence on the very peace process
that the Prime Minister was taking about. He is the man who told
his cadres at his Martyr's Day speech - "the thirst of the
Tiger is the nation of Tamil Eelam.''
He then proceeded
to leave that particular bit out of the rendition of the speech
that was issued to the international community. Not all the Akashis,
the Armitages, the Helgasens and the Bellamys of the world have
been able to get a clarification from him on that. Who then is,
in fact, opposing the peace process?
And why blame the Messenger?