This is a post about two kinds of journalism under extremely different circumstances. First, a salute to several independent journalists who dared to speak the truth about one of the most evil, fascist, genocidal regimes in world history and have paid the price for it. Under an evil, barbaric, murderous regime that has crushed all norms of decency, democracy, human rights and civilised behaviour, several journalists have dared to uphold the norms of unbiased journalism, publishing the facts and questioning reports dished out by the war criminals running the government.
First, one of the greatest journalists in the world, Lasantha Wickramatunge, the editor of The Sunday Leader, who was always known for his unbiased journalism, one who dared to expose corruption and crimes of any regime in Sri Lanka. He was on the hit-list of the murderous Rajapaksa goons’ regime for some time. He paid the ultimate price, when he was attacked viciously and then shot dead as he was driving to work by a government death squad, similar to the ones that are used to butcher innocent Tamil civilians in many parts of Sri Lanka:
Lasantha was not just an honest journalist, but an extremely intelligent man. He knew his life was in danger for he had predicted his own death at the hands of a government death squad and had written an article and saved it on his computer, to be published after the the scum beings killed him. He puts the blame squarely on the Rajapaksa regime. Read the full article here. Here are some excerpts (emphasis added):
No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last……We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower……Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not……But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.The Sunday Leader has been a controversial newspaper because we say it like we see it: whether it be a spade, a thief or a murderer, we call it by that name. We do not hide behind euphemism. The investigative articles we print are supported by documentary evidence thanks to the public-spiritedness of citizens who at great risk to themselves pass on this material to us. We have exposed scandal after scandal, and never once in these 15 years has anyone proved us wrong or successfully prosecuted us……Every newspaper has its angle, and we do not hide the fact that we have ours. Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy…
…The Sunday Leader has never sought safety by unquestioningly articulating the majority view. Let’s face it, that is the way to sell newspapers. On the contrary, as our opinion pieces over the years amply demonstrate, we often voice ideas that many people find distasteful. For example, we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urged government to view Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens. For these views we have been labelled traitors, and if this be treachery, we wear that label proudly……Neither should our distaste for the war be interpreted to mean that we support the Tigers. The LTTE are among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations ever to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting them mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma is forever called into question by this savagery, much of which is unknown to the public because of censorship.What is more, a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering “development” and “reconstruction” on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity. If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my countrymen – and all of the government – cannot see this writing so plainly on the wall.
It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.
The irony in this is that, unknown to most of the public, Mahinda and I have been friends for more than a quarter century…
…In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life, but yours too, depends on it.
Sadly, for all the dreams you had for our country in your younger days, in just three years you have reduced it to rubble. In the name of patriotism you have trampled on human rights, nurtured unbridled corruption and squandered public money like no other President before you. Indeed, your conduct has been like a small child suddenly let loose in a toyshop. That analogy is perhaps inapt because no child could have caused so much blood to be spilled on this land as you have, or trampled on the rights of its citizens as you do. Although you are now so drunk with power that you cannot see it, you will come to regret your sons having so rich an inheritance of blood. It can only bring tragedy. As for me, it is with a clear conscience that I go to meet my Maker. I wish, when your time finally comes, you could do the same. I wish.
As for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked tall and bowed to no man. And I have not travelled this journey alone. Fellow journalists in other branches of the media walked with me: most of them are now dead, imprisoned without trial or exiled in far-off lands. Others walk in the shadow of death that your Presidency has cast on the freedoms for which you once fought so hard. You will never be allowed to forget that my death took place under your watch. As anguished as I know you will be, I also know that you will have no choice but to protect my killers: you will see to it that the guilty one is never convicted. You have no choice. I feel sorry for you, and Shiranthi will have a long time to spend on her knees when next she goes for Confession for it is not just her owns sins which she must confess, but those of her extended family that keeps you in office.
As for the readers of The Sunday Leader, what can I say but Thank You for supporting our mission. We have espoused unpopular causes, stood up for those too feeble to stand up for themselves, locked horns with the high and mighty so swollen with power that they have forgotten their roots, exposed corruption and the waste of your hard-earned tax rupees, and made sure that whatever the propaganda of the day, you were allowed to hear a contrary view. For this I – and my family – have now paid the price that I have long known I will one day have to pay. I am – and have always been – ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death. What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remains to be written is when.
That The Sunday Leader will continue fighting the good fight, too, is written. For I did not fight this fight alone. Many more of us have to be – and will be – killed before The Leader is laid to rest. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of your President to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish. Not all the Rajapakses combined can kill that…
If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled. Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.
Lasantha, in happier times…
Image: The Sunday Leader
Lasantha was not the first to be killed, nor will he be the last. Just a few days before this attack, MTV/MBC/ Sirasa the most popular television station in Sri Lanka that ran several television and radio channels in three languages (Sinhala, Tamil and English), was destroyed with explosives and by gunfire by one of those infamous “white van” death squads of the Sri Lankan government.
After Lasantha’s death, the editor of Rivira, a Sinhala weekly that was known for its neutral views, Upali Tennakoon and his wife were brutally assaulted by a gang of knife wielding scum on motorcycles. Both the editor and his wife suffered several knife cuts.
The injured editor of Rivira…
Today, Lal Hemantha Mawalage, news producer at state-run Television station, Rupavahini, has been admitted to the Colombo General Hospital after being attacked with machete and knives by unknown assailants at 11:30 p.m. Friday while walking in Athurugiriya in Colombo, sources in Colombo said. Mr Mawalage suffered injuries to both hands and body, according to his relatives. The attackers are suspected to be allied to non-cabinet Minister of Labour Mervin Silva who was involved in an altercation at Rupavahini on 26 December.
Informed sources said Minister Silva was irked by the actions of Mr Mawalage who had allegedly commended his fellow journalists at Rupavahini for helping to defend his news editor collegue, T.M.G Chandrasekara, when the Minister attacked him.
Lal Hemantha Mawalage, in a serious condition…
If this is the fate of independent Sinhala journalists, then that of Tamil journalists, is worse. Not only do the Tamil journalists of the fascist state risk their lives, but they risk infinite detention without trial and torture.
Several of them have been murdered in cold blood, like Sivaram and Nadesan. Others like Tissainayagam are detained infinitely without trial under draconian laws and tortured.
Tissainayagam started news-website called OutreachSL.com using a grant from FLICT (Foundation for Local Initiatives in Conflict Transformation). FLICT is a Sri Lankan based grant making body funded by the international community (primarily the German government). FLICT funds civic and government initiatives including the government’s Peace Secretariat.
Tissainayagam apprehended by TID (Terrorist Investigation Department) and all staff of the website were apprehended by the TID. Since then, the fascist thugs have kept in detention and tortured him without being given a chance of trial.
Journalists Tissainayagam and Jasiharan being “arrested” and taken away…
The German ambassador, Juergen Weerth, had this to say at the funeral of Lasantha Wickrematunge…
“Today is a day when one remains speechless,” Weerth said at the funeral Monday. “Maybe we should have spoken before this. Today it is too late.”
“Today is a day when humanity has lost a major voice of truth. But he will live in his work,” AFP report said quoting the Ambassador.
Six former US ambassadors have expressed the same in a letter to the leader of the fascist regime.
Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said Rajapakse’s government was directly to blame for the death of the editor as it had “incited hatred against him.”
Four more media personnel have been forced to flee Sri Lanka fearing for their lives. They are Sanath Balasuriya and Poddala Jayantha of Lake House, Sunanda Deshapriya and Uvindu Kurukulasuriya of the Free Media Movement. Last week Upul Joseph Fernando of the Lankadeepa, Rathnapala Gamage of Lankadeepa, and Chevan Daniel of MTV left the country. In addition, Iqbal Athas, Keith Noyahr, Namal Perera and Anuruddha Lokuhappuarachchi had already left the country.
Now, to the second part of this post. I do not want to demean or dishonour the honest, sincere, persons who have laid down their lives in defence of the ethics and principles of journalism in a banana republic ruled by fascist, genocidal thugs, by posting something about a person who is paid by the fascist regime to act as its mouthpiece in a neighbouring country where the press are supposed to be “free”. Free, as in free to take huge amounts of money and receive a few “awards” from the fascist goons. Of course, it’s the infamous sewer jounalist of Chennai, Mr. N. Ram, the editor-in-chief of The Hindu, and his bunch of liars, who have been publishing “news” about the genocide in Sri Lanka by faithfully reproducing every single word that the war criminals have been dishing out to him. For this toilet paper, there are no civilians killed in this genocide, when the fact is that hundreds are being killed everyday in “safe zones”, hospitals and ambulances being bombed from the air and with artillery and multi-barrel rocket launchers. For these filthy scum journalists, there is no attack on the media when it is a fact that tens of journalists have been murdered and assaulted and the fact that Sri Lanka is the second most deadly place for journalists in the entire world. All because of this:
The sewer journalist N. Ram receiving an “honour” from the fascist regime…
This vile liar has received the same award from the murderer-in-chief of the current genocidal regime as well as an award by a government run body that praised “his service to journalism in Asia”. There exists no word in the English language or any language in the world, to describe a “journalist” who is awarded for “journalism” by a fascist, genocidal regime that ranks 165th out of 173 countries in Press Freedom and the country where the second largest number of journalists are brutally murdered or maimed for doing their work.
Journalists who dare to speak the truth get murdered but sewer journalists who blatantly lie get rewarded. These are the sad facts about journalism in Sri Lanka.