The Fifth Column

19th January 1997

What's news?

Thaaththa", Bindu Udagedara asked, "what is all this fuss about media freedom?"

"The media," Bindu's father Percy said, "is saying they are being harassed by the government".

"Why do they say that?"

"Because," Percy said, "they are using the Prevention of Terrorism Act against journalists".

"So, they are saying that journalists are like terrorists?"

"Yes, if they broadcast or publish news that helps terrorists, they are also taken to the Fourth Floor".

"But, thaaththa", Bindu argued, "even the General was taken to the Fourth Floor".

"That was more like a ceremonial welcome, Percy argued.

"But thaaththa", Bindu wanted to know, "didn't Satellite promise enough media freedom and transparency".

"Ah", said Percy, "Satellite and her promises".

"But, thaaththa", Bindu said, "hasn't Mahinda said that he didn't agree with the government's media policy?"

"That must be because he is the official 'Reporter'!"

"And then they say that even Ashraff has protested".

"That must be because he is the unofficial reporter".

"But despite their protests, people like Reggie carry on regardless".

"He would have mistaken that ITN chap for Shane Warne, perhaps".

"All of which proves that news is what people want suppressed; all the rest is advertising".

"It's like saying that when dog bites man it's not news but when man bites dog it's news".

"Yes", Bindu said, "when governments are attacked by the media or when the opposition supports the media, we should not treat it as news".

"But when the government attacks the media, it's always news", Percy said.

Bindu did not disagree.

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