PM and the media | Daily News

PM and the media

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is perhaps the only leader in post independence Sri Lanka who had been criticized, insulted and humiliated in equal measure, while being both in the government and Opposition. One has only to recall the insults and calumny heaped on Wickremesinghe during his long innings in the Opposition, under both, the Chandrika and Mahinda regimes. Not only was he insulted at a political level but he was also humiliated at a personnel level too. One recalls how posters bearing the distorted visage of Wickremesinghe, of the likeness of a famous comedian in the western cinema, was splashed across the country on the eve of the 1999 presidential election. However, to his credit, Premier Wickremesinghe, characteristically, came out of it all, unscathed, and better for the experience.

However, sections of the media are still baying at him. While criticism from certain quarters is somewhat measured, there are other media houses which have openly come out firing with all cylinders, singling out the Premier for special attacks.

Speaking at an event to enumerate the two year progress of the government, at Sirikotha, on Monday, the PM lamented the stance of the media to single him out for criticism, although much has been dome by him in terms of developing the economy and ensuring media freedom. He asked the media, though, not to fear and that they will not be ‘white vanned’ for their trouble, unlike in the past, where journalists were abducted in the dead of the night, tortured and even killed. He said, even though the UNP led national government had achieved a great deal in terms of freedom and economic development he was unreasonably criticized by sections of the media.”Is it because we gave journalists the freedom to criticize, and write, that they are constantly attacking us, especially me” he queried. In the same vein he asked the media to fear nothing and that his responses will only be verbal, adding that the white van syndrome was a thing of the past.

The Premier also went onto point out how even trade unions have seized on the new found freedom afforded them by the unity government, to stage politically motivated protests, on issues that had nothing to do with their professions, quite a refreshing experience indeed ,considering how these TU leaders were shivering in their pants, when the Rajapaksas were in power.

True, Premier Wickremesinghe may have a justifiable grievance against sections of the media for the undue criticism, specifically targeting him. Certain media houses, particularly the visual media, have been making not so subtle criticism of the Premier, over a period of time, and have gone to the extent of distorting his statements and pronouncements. One TV channel, which makes no bones as to whom it owes its loyalties to, have taken things further. The individual hosting the morning programme giving out the daily newspaper accounts, even makes fun of the comments and statements of the Premier's, often sneeringly. Another channel has reserved its news segment to make frontal attacks on the PM, even introducing special programmes, where, known critics of the Premier are bowled ‘full tosses’ to obtain the answers that are to the liking of the owners of this channel.

True, the media, in a true democracy, is free to criticize the Prime Minister .US President Donald Trump is still being taken to the cleaners, by sections of western media. There are also TV channels which promote the agenda of politicians, which also is permissible. However, a balance ought to be maintained somewhere along the line. TV channels should not be used as tools to downgrade and vilify a country's prime minister, merely to satisfy the vindictive lust of their owners, who may have lost out on multi billion rupee contacts.

Not just Premier Wickremesinghe. Even President Sirisena has lamented on the conduct of certain media, which he claims were portraying the wrong picture to the general public, while the positives of the government were being blanked out .The President, like the PM, may have a grievance on this score. The divisive nature of the news given on the proposed new constitution, by certain media, is a case in point. While both, the President and PM, had clearly stated that no final document has been hammered out and that the Maha Sangha will be consulted to clarify all doubts, the media are giving weightage to the comments of pro-Rajapaksa bikkhus, that are likely to whip up mass hysteria, leading to a conflagration. This aspect of the picture should be taken into consideration by the authorities and put into operation a counter campaign to allay the fears of the majority community. The President had often complained that the media had failed to present the development programmes undertaken in the country, in a positive sense, to the public. Now, a constitution goni billa is being created in earnest. It is time the government got it's act together and put together an effective mechanism, to combat all myths that it’s opponents may try to spread, using the services of sections of the media. 


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