On Saturday we
witnessed an ugly attack on the Jatika Rupavahini and ITN media
crews that went to cover the UNP Convention held to approve the
party’s support to an outsider at the forthcoming presidential
This is not the first time that media crews from these
institutions were attacked by persons linked to the UNP. In
fact, the UNP has a notorious history of intimidating the media.
One could recall the longstanding boycott of the Lake House
newspapers whenever the party was in the Opposition. In fact, a
party spokesman referring to the above incident claimed that the
TV crews who were assaulted in front of their convention venue
were not invited. Little did he know that the media do not need
invitations to cover public events.
By saying that they were not invited the UNP spokesmen tried
to absolve themselves of the blame for the assault and perhaps
hint that they deserved the punishment for arriving without
Media, irrespective its ownership should be free to operate.
The incident like any other such incident should be condemned
without reservation. Denying the media access to public events
means, in fact, depriving the public of their right to
It is interesting to note that neither the UNP Leader nor the
prospective Opposition candidate has condemned the incident. It
is apparent that they were privy to the incident and have
This incident should not be taken in isolation. It should be
considered in the context of a developing scenario when the
State media is being singled out for persecution by the forces
that are aligned against the incumbent President.
It was only last week the JVP leader said that the State
media are not welcome at their public meetings. Like the UNP the
JVP also has a history of intimidating and harassing the media.
One could recall the number of media personnel and even news
agents that were killed by the armed groups of the JVP during
the reign of terror.
Now it is clear that one policy common to the UNP and the JVP
in the present situation is their aversion and hatred towards
State media and their desire to manhandle the media that won’t
dance to their tune. These incidents show only the tip of the
iceberg. What is in store yet is more threatening and dreadful.
It is time for those champions of democracy and media freedom
to come out and articulate their opinions in public. Silence
would be understood quite naturally as collusion.
What is at stake is not only media freedom. It is more than
that. The whole democratic set up and people’s fundamental
rights are being threatened by a Gestapo in the making.
Nations Climate Change Conference begins today in Copenhagen.
There has been a lot of preparations by governments the world
over. Even the United States which failed to ratify the Kyoto
Protocol, the outcome of the previous global summit on climate
change is attending the Copenhagen. China has agreed to cut
carbon dioxide emissions substantially. India is also expected
to make a substantial contribution.
What interests us here is how small nations, both landlocked
and islands have sought to dramatise their plight in order to
make their voice heard at Copenhagen. Maldives held a Cabinet
meeting in the sea bed to emphasise the threat they face of
being submerged in the Indian Ocean.
Not to be outdone Nepal, the country that sits on top of the
world literally had a Cabinet meeting at the top of Mount
Everest to highlight the threat posed by global warming which
has begun to melt the Himalayan glaciers. The melting glaciers
have created lakes with walls that could burst and flood
villages below. One believes these were not publicity stunts but
results of a genuine feeling that something had to be done to
bring to the knowledge of the world their plight.
What course of action could our own Cabinet of Ministers have
taken to highlight the dangers faced by Sri Lanka as a result of
unforeseen climate change - global warming etc.?
Perhaps they could have held an open air Cabinet meeting in
the hot sun in a parched out dusty patch of land in the dry zone
partaking a frugal lunch or they could have waited for an
auspicious time during heavy floods and held a Cabinet meeting
in several canoes under moonlight partaking a cold dinner? If
they were to highlight any other environmental hazard other than
climate change they could have quite comfortably held a meeting
inside the Wolfendhal garbage dump that sits there permanently.