News is a story, it is all in how you tell it. News First tells it so that the government is the villain while the most ruthless terrorist organization in the whole wide world is …, … well the hero!

Here is a recipe for proving this: (requires some volunteers with a considerable amount of time and effort)

Step 1)
For at least two weeks, listen to/view the main News First program.
Record the news items related to the LTTE terrorists problem; note the exact wording used, visuals displayed, time assigned to each news item.

Step 2)
During the same period, in a similar fashion, record the news items of:

The primary state controlled media channel (to get the official government version of each news item)
– Rupavahini (because it is somewhat more moderate than ITN)

The three other leading news channels (to act as a base in reviewing News First)
– Swarnavahini
– Derana

Step 3)
Compare the reporting.
For the same news item, compare how each channel has presented the story.
These are the parameters:
Dedicated airtime, statements made on the story.
Write down the subjective observations on the tone of the presentation and implicit political angle of the reporting.

Get answers to the following:

  • What news items are not reported in News First but are reported in other channels?
  • Is their anything special about those stories?
  • In the same news item, are their parts that News First doesn’t cover?
  • Is their a pattern in this selective coverage and omission of reporting?
  • Is their a pattern in the nature of news items getting more airtime versus items that don’t?
  • How does News First refer to the LTTE terrorists?
    – Do they ever use the word ‘terrorists’ against the LTTE at all?
  • Compare their use of titles and honorifics to the President and Ministers (or the lack of it) versus LTTE terrorists (or the abundance of it).

Step 4)
Compile the findings in to a short report.
This would be a statistically and factually valid report verifiable against the actual physical recordings of the news programs.

If the report indicated that News First is definitely not pro-terrorist but a truly neutral entity, then good for them and a huge apology would be in order from all the foolish conspiracy theorists.

On the other hand if it indicated that Sirasa News First might, just might be inclined towards furthering the course of the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit, then action needs to be taken.

Not violent (and ultimately counter productive) action but peaceful and democratic action.

Legal action against them wouldn’t work because they are not doing anything illegal.
Since LTTE is not currently a banned organization in Sri Lanka, because of the outside hope of them returning to peace talks, News First does not have to call those terrorists, ‘terrorists’. And they do not have to make a distinction between Mr. Nadesan and Mr. Rajapakse at all. And unlike the other private channels, they do not have to “not prominently feature the terrorist leaders’ heroes’ day speech in their program”.
It is all just un-patriotic, but none of that is a crime.

So what action is available?

Simple, just copy the strategy from News First’s own “Action TV news segment” (This actually is excellent- News First is good in every way except being possibly pro-terrorist)
Bring the facts to the open- by doing so, embarrass/force the responsible parties to remedy the situation.

The responsible parties are:
1) News First director.
2) Government media minister
3) Defense secretary
4) President’s secretary

The content of the report (described above) and results of further investigations arising out of the interest created by that first report, can be: published online and in news papers, spread across the blogsphere, and used as material by anti-terrorist lobbyists such as the National Movement Against Anti-terrorism, JVP, and the JHU.

If this is done properly, the best case scenario is:
News First gradually reducing their pro-terrorist inclination (They would never admit to being ever pro-terrorist).

I hope that there are at least some result oriented patriots out their willing to join this fight against “media support for terrorism”.
And please remember that this fight of words and ideas is every bit as important as the fight done with guns and motors.

Read part 1 of this post


At least one political party and many people have alleged or expressed suspicion that the popular news program “Sirasa News First” supports the LTTE terrorists.

Is there any truth in this?

An allegation as serious as this must be based on fact, not on mere suspicion.

There are several ways of investigating this ‘suspicion’.

One, very unwise way of investigation would be to question the News First editing team and the people they take orders from.
This approach is very unwise because this would be interpreted as a serious violation of media freedom.

There is a simpler and more effective approach, which does not violate media freedom yet would get the job done. I will describe this approach in part 2 of this topic, hopefully, tomorrow. But first, let me try to describe the context of this issue.

Sirasa TV is arguably the most popular TV channel in Sri Lanka.
And they, as a media channel, is, very good.
Good in the sense that they are very talented in what they do- not in the sense of moral goodness.

They are pioneers in the field and hence the most copied; they have an excellent team, and their brand marketing is superb.
They have captured the ladies with the likes of “Maha Gedara” and “Praveena”. They have captured the youth with programs such as “Sirasa Super Star”. To top it off they have a strong line-up of many other very popular programs, in Sinhala, English, and Tamil.

They are an indispensable part of the Sri Lankan people’s “infotainment mindscape”.
Without them Sri Lankan media would be very different.

Enter Sirasa News First.

Definitely a phenomenon to behold!
The news casters are excellent, presentation great, and the script like a finely edited drama.

And they do not lie, period.

In fact they are more truthful than the news programs of state controlled media.
Over the years, they have built a good reputation as an excellent news program.

What then is the problem?

The problem is that although they do not lie, unfortunately they do not tell the whole truth either.

News is a story, it is all in how you tell it.

They tell it well, in such a way that it aligns with some as yet undisclosed agenda of their own.
It is done so subtly and so artfully that without realizing it, the viewers’ thinking is gradually adjusted to whatever shape they want it to take.

This might look like speculation.
It is.
I will discuss how this speculation can be verified or negated in part 2 of this topic.

Of course the state media is and has been feeding the general population with what the government of the day wants them to see and hear.
But everybody already knows this and they always take the reporting of state media with a grain of salt.

But Sirasa TV is not state controlled. It is supposed to be independent.

If it does in fact, have a sinister pro-terrorist agenda- who is holding the strings?

If the President Mahinda Rajapakse holds the strings of Rupahavini and ITN, who is holding the strings of Sirasa News First?

I do not know about you, but I am seriously worried.

Read part 2 of this post