Renton de Alwis on Channel 4’s One-sided Blindness

Renton de Alwis, Daily News, 22 June 2011

With the Channel 4 ‘spin’ of telecasting the ‘Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ programme last week, we were once again reminded that relating only one side of the story can be as convincing to an audience, wishing to hear only that side of the story. Watching it on ‘You Tube’, the question I, as an ordinary Sri Lankan citizen asked throughout its craftily-spun-rolling was, where then is the LTTE in all of this? They were always featured as the victims but for a few passing references to just a few of their crimes, there was very little mention of them.

One-sided affair:  It was as if this was a ‘clapping of hands with one hand’, where the sole agenda is to get a legitimately elected government of my country and its armed forces on its knees for effectively wiping out a group of terrorists, or their representatives who were once ‘friends’ or were ‘friends of friends’ of yours. It was as if there were no terrorists or terrorism against the Sri Lankan state, citizens of this country and even on a leader ofIndia, Rajiv Ghandi, involved in this story. For someone who has only little knowledge of the over 25 years of unleashing of bloody terrorist attacks by the LTTE, it would seem as if the Sri Lankan government was hell-bent on killing its own innocent Tamil civilian citizens, when the truth is far from that.

At one point I wondered, if it would not have been tactically advantageous for the LTTE terrorists to shell the hospitals located within the ‘No-Fire Zones’ themselves, to achieve the very objective of attracting the sympathy and involvement of the ‘international community’. This could have been a ploy to discredit the government and its fighting outfit. I wondered why that possibility was not even suggested to the viewers. It was to me a portrayal of a totally one-sided affair and not at all ‘unbiased reportage’ of the end-stages of the defeating of what was termed by the international media themselves as the ‘most ruthless terrorist group in the world’.

Hell on earth; For those UN and Amnesty International ‘officials’, featured in the programme, who have been party to only a limited period of this bloody conflict, I can only say ‘You should have lived through what I and 20 million others like me, had to live through as Sri Lankans during those over 25 years’. To us, it was ‘hell on earth’ when our brothers and sisters were indiscriminately murdered by the LTTE suicide bombers. It was sure hell to see many lives of our young being sacrificed while fighting ruthless terrorists on those battle-fields. There will be testimony on both sides of the fence of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of those who have been victims of the traps laid in LTTE killing fields at various locations, at various times, in various forms and the kidnappings and summary executions carried out during those over 25 years.

For these spin doctors and those who chose only to be associated with one part of the story, such news goes to achieve their singular objective of wanting to place another obstacle in the way of a nation, that so yearns to heal its wounds and move on to achieve a better future for all its citizens.

Our brethren:  I, for one am someone who does not hold any political party affiliations or blind loyalties. I was part of an entirely voluntary effort working at the interim camps in helping Tamil civilians in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of the LTTE and met and interacted with them on several occasions and assisted in solving some of their immediate problems. There were many others who did very much more and helped ease their plight. At no time did we associate the LTTE’s inhuman ways with any of the innocent civilians, in those camps. To us they were brethren who had undergone much suffering.

Just this week in the Deep South where I live, we eagerly wait to welcome and interact with 10 Tamil students and their teachers on a Peace Secretariat, US AID and Rotary Club sponsored programme. They are here for a week, will visit schools and have fun meeting their counterparts. Several children here are gearing to horn their Tamil speaking skills to be able to interact with their brothers and sisters from the North. I am told that the visiting students are doing the same. There are yet many other ongoing programmes in the North and the East and in the rest of the country to help rebuild the lives of these very people depicted in the film. There are committed counsellors, doctors, engineers, government employees, members of the armed forces, volunteers and other well-meaning persons, who are chipping-in to assist our Tamil brethren to heal their wounds and regain hope and ability to build a better tomorrow.

We are healing:  It is certainly the summation of the work of the leadership, such individuals and events that will bring us together to cement real peace within our nation. Attempts of ‘spin doctors’ and their sponsors with PR funds, who seem to be hell-bent on creating more and more rift and division among us, will certainly not help the process. The good news is that in spite of all of this we are healing, and we are fully aware that it is not an easy road ahead.

On a recent web-forum a fellow Sri Lankan Asoka Weerasinghe ofCanadahad had this to say: “Graphic footage of the murder of Tamil civilians in a powerful documentary should move the world to seek justice”, wrote Chris Cobb.

“I myself was reviled by this documentary as was Chris Cobb. But my revulsion was for a very different reason. This was a video when challenged by independent experts as not being authentic footage, was admitted by Channel 4’s Callum Macrea who directed it, that it was put together with photographic stills, LTTE (Tamil Tiger) websites, video clippings, from official Sri Lankan Army video footage and satellite imagery, contrary to what we were made to believe were completely shot by a simple mobile phone in the killing fields. I also noted that it was Channel 4’s News team, Nick Paton Walsh, producer Bessie Du and cameraman Matt Jasper who were deported fromSri Lankaon May 10, 2009, as they alleged were arrested for false reporting on the Tamil Tiger terrorist war and subsequently deported.

Suicide bombing: It is also clear that the motive to air this video to be seen around the world is to insist that Sri Lanka has to be tried for war against humanity and war crimes during the final few months of the war, when we know that the Tamil Tigers did kill over 100,000 innocent unarmed Sinhalese and Muslim civilians, men, women, pregnant mothers, children and infants for 27 long years and hijacked the right-to-life of 21 million people who were just scared to step outside their homes for the fear of being bombed to smithereens by the Tamil Tigers. They were the terrorists who perfected the art of suicide bombings with suicide body packs, and executed 388 suicide bombings by the time the war ended on May 18, 2009, which also assassinated two heads of state Rajiv Gandhi ofIndiaand President Premadasa ofSri Lanka”.

Ethical practises and the precepts or commandments followed by rational and good media, just do not jell well with efforts such as that of Channel 4. They take bits and pieces of images, thought-lines, comments and commentaries out of context, out of time lines and thread them together to tell stories to audiences who want to hear it that way. Ground realities, rationality and facts are ignored as a rule and the sources are always secondary at best and tertiary most often.

There is no doubt that we live in an imperfect world and there is so much of wrong-doing that needs to be exposed. It is also true that the role of the media in that pursuit is of vital importance. Human freedom and expression would never be the same if not for the presence of fine, rational media men and women, who often take huge risks on their own lives to bring to us, the realities of the world as they are.

Have what it takes :  Yet it seems that the objective and the rationale behind covering ‘bad and sad news’ while being in the comforts of the studios using the best of technology and doctoring skills, working with editing machines and with third and second party materials, without an understanding of what really goes on in the places or the situations they are reporting on, seem to pass on today as ‘hits’ of stories as they are touted.

What we need today is a new dictum where bad news is not considered good news. We need to focus more on the good and encourage more and more of that good to happen more often around us. There is no merit in rubbing on wounds that are healing. One needs to amputate only cancerous growths and not healthy tissues.

Once again, I as a citizen of Sri Lanka want to observe and impress upon the many friends and well-wishes around, that we as a nation have the resolve, will, energy and whatever else it takes to heal our wounds. We only need you to encourage, constructively criticise, support us and cheer us along the way. It is with such effort that ‘good news will become good news’.           ALSO SEE http:/ THE MENU BAR DOES NOT OPEN BUT BE PATEINT AND KEEP CLICKING TILL A POP-UP ASKS YOU TO SAVE OR OPEN. DO BOTH.







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Filed under citizen journalism, historical interpretation, LTTE, military strategy, Rajapaksa regime, reconciliation, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, suicide bombing, terrorism, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

One response to “Renton de Alwis on Channel 4’s One-sided Blindness

  1. Gunda

    The age of public lynching has been replaced by the age of Media Lynching.
    There is no “equal representation” for the accuser and the accused.
    The Boston News of June 2010 aired the “execution” part of the Channel-4 movie, but the Executioner spoke Tamil.

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