THE current controversies
surrounding some sections of the privately-owned media point to the
flimsy foundation on which these sections stake a claim to credibility
Some biased sections of the privately-owned media are trying to
project the impression that all is not well with the Government
Deputy Minister of Information and Media Dilan Perera, had occasion
to comment more elaborately on these issues and pointed to the baseless
nature of some adverse comments which had been directed at the State
media by a private media practitioner.
A principal and thought provoking point was made by the Deputy
Minister when he said that despite waxing eloquent about their
"independent" status, some of these private media practitioners had
ended-up being organisers and prominent political activists for
opposition parties. So much for their vaunted independence.
All this begs the question: how "free" or "independent" are these
sections of the privately-owned media?
A frank appraisal of their performance so far would not convince the
public of their political neutrality because the falsehoods, distortions
and undisguised concoctions dished out by some media organisations only
betray crude, partisan, political biases, with hardly an attempt being
made to be politically neutral.
The point is all too obvious that these sections of the media are
making the huge blunder of equating private ownership with factual
reporting and responsible commentary - two essential features of media
However, those sections which have made the State media their
whipping boy ought to remember that the privately - owned media are
thriving under the current administration. The electronic media in
particular, are increasing their membership steadily. Several new TV
channels have recently begun transmissions.
Inasmuch as media freedom cannot be equated with private media
ownership it cannot be treated as synonymous with the "freedom of the
wild ass" either. Unfortunately, some sections have placed the latter on
par with a free and responsible media.
Combating bird flu
THE Government has
reassured that there was no immediate threat of avian flu in Sri Lanka.
This assurance is certainly welcome, as health experts are warning that
an outbreak of the deadly disease is a real possibility. Such a disaster
could claim tens of millions of lives worldwide.
We cannot however be complacent as this is a closely-knit world. Jet
travel has brought countries closer together. Goods are traded right
across the world. It is therefore only a matter of time before a
contagion travels from one country to another.
We report in our foreign news pages today that Russia, China and
Romania have confirmed new outbreaks of bird flu, fuelling fears of a
global influenza pandemic.
It seems that the H5N1 flu strain is not giving up easily, even as
Governments and drugs companies race against time to develop a vaccine
and effective medication to combat the disease.
Efforts to boost production of anti-flu vaccines have multiplied
after one drug company announced it would allow others to produce
oseltamivir, the anti-flu drug.
The scientists' greatest fear is that H5N1 could mutate into a form
which can easily be transmitted from human to human.
The Health Minister has said that the Government is in constant
contact with the World Health Organisation on the bird flu issue. Local
doctors and veterinary surgeons have to be briefed on tackling the
disease and poultry farm owners too have to fall in line with health
guidelines in this regard.
A bird flu epidemic could have serious repercussions on our fledging
economy and the tourism industry, both of which are gradually gaining
ground after the December 26, 2004 tsunami.
An even bigger health calamity will spell doom for these vital
sectors. All stakeholders in the health sector must formulate a viable
action plan to prevent such a catastrophe.