When did our media really come of age?
By Rajpal Abeynayake
Wags and media experts are arguing about what really brought Sri Lankan media into the modern era. When did the media really come of age? Was it with the Free Media Movement? Was it with the formation of the Editors’ Guild? Was it with the formation of the Press Complaints Commission, a self-regulatory body? Or even if all that's not earthshaking to the skeptical -- was it with media persons being given Awards of Excellence?

All these were of course watershed events, and they signified the burgeoning maturity of the local media no doubt, but wags may differ. When the Sri Lankan media really came of age, they may say, is when they started reporting sex scandals.

Sex scandals in those days were the purview of the American or the European newspapers, and while Bill Clinton got embroiled in girlie troubles Sri Lankan newspapers were only carrying Reuter reports and thinking "there is so much sex and scandal happening out there -- but it only happens in developed countries.''

Nobody in their wildest dreams would have thought that the Sri Lankan media would come into developed nation status, right out from the cold as it were, and within such a short space of time. After all it was the other day, almost, when we were watching Bill Clinton launching attacks against Baghdad when the story of his whole steamy romp with Monica Lewinsky broke out like a diaper rash.

But then Rauff Hakeem came into the scene, and he proved that it does not take many years for non-developed countries to catch up with the developed nations, with right stuff the right attitude. Rauf Hakeenm almost beat Clinton right of out the whole scandal stakes almost because in his case there were allegations and counter allegations and there were tapes which almost pushed the whole thing into the realms and dimensions reminiscent of Watergate. Even common truisms were turned on their head in this episode - "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'' they said at first and then it appeared as if hell hath no fury like a woman conned….

The unkind would say that this is when other potentates thought that they better not be left behind in this eruption of sex scandals that were bringing the media right into the rocket age. The kind would say there is no scandal in the CJ's case.

But you should have seen some newspapers reporting on this issue last week, and you would think that Monica Leswinsky may herself be blushing in whichever quarter of post sandal Nirvana she may be residing in now.

I saw some of the key sociologists who work on these matters, and they all tell me that it is a nature of society that it needs a new scandal genre, once such a society has all the corruption that it could handle.

So that figures. We have had our fill of money scandals, and we have had a surfeit of abduction sandals and of impersonation and vote-rigging scandals that it was only a mater of time before someone should step into the void and offer us a good sex scandal. In that way, it is all an anti climax as it were, and nobody should get any idea about a double entendre there. The thing with the sex scandal is that it necessarily involves third and fourth parties, and these are mostly females who are of course unkindly referred to in America as bimbos. We in Sri Lanka would never use such epithets - - - we are more civilized about these matters of course.

But as the French would say "Cherchez La Femme'' Those days we used to look for the woman beneath the scandal. Now we look for her right on the scandal's flipping surface.

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