|Wednesday, 26 November 2003|
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Giving the State media a new orientation
The idea of a State-initiated National Free Media Policy is likely to be greeted with a degree of scepticism and even cynicism by sections of the public on account of the largely failed nature of such experiments in the past, but it is up to the State, this time around, to prove these "Doubting Thomases" wrong.
There is no need to labour the point that the "State-controlled" media have been right along used by governing political parties - and no party has been an exception to this rule thus far - for partisan, propaganda purposes. While this is the honest truth, there is no ducking the need to make a new beginning towards truly broad-basing the State media and making them responsive to national needs. Accordingly, we welcome the President's efforts to give the State media a broad-based, democratic orientation and to launch a National Free Media Policy which would give tangible form to the people's freedom of expression and meet their information needs.
While honesty of purpose would prove a crucial factor in the success of this renewed effort to liberate the State media from the forces which have been hitherto prostituting them and enslaving them to the covert agendas of political parties, it is with some gladness that we note that an attempt has been made to comprehend afresh the role and function of the State media.
Theoretically, the State media need to be broadly representative of the totality of legitimate public interests. That this has been rarely happening to date reflects on the degree to which this section of the media has been abused by political parties for the furtherance of their narrow interests. To make matters worse, governments have been violating in practice what they have been lyrically and eloquently proclaiming in words, as regards media freedom. So we hope, a clean break would now be made with the past.
Apparently, slowly but surely a painful process of self-education seems to be at work. For one thing, the flagrantly partisan use of the media has taken governments nowhere. In fact, media abuse has played a prime role in bringing down governments. The Lankan public has always proved perceptive and clear - headed when bludgeoned with partisan news and views. Generally speaking, the public has resisted the propaganda bait.
We, therefore hope, refreshing winds of change will finally flow through our State media institutions. Making provision for political parties, besides the one which is ruling, to air their views on TV and radio, would only enhance the credibility of the State media. In fact it would lay the groundwork for a truly discursive State media sector. Democracy would be the ultimate winner because issues would be debated openly and robustly. This process would also strengthen consensual decision - making processes - a vital need at the current juncture.
We also welcome moves to give the State media a development orientation. There is much more to the life of the nation than politics. Poverty is felt almost everywhere but moves are also being made by the Government and some provincial councils to alleviate it. These developments, too need to be covered by the media. We hope this process will be accelerated in the days ahead.
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