There had been an attack on the Sirasa premises at Depanama, Pannipitiya early this morning.

Last night (before the attack) one of the Sirasa security guards at the building said that some people in plate-less white vans came and scared him by parading in front of the gate.

This morning the Sirasa channels are full of nothing but the attack. It is mostly the showing of the damaged/destroyed AV equipment and the broadcasting of pre-recorded ‘condolence messages’ from ‘dignitaries’. They tried some live messages but had to stop midway because some of the speakers, for example the chief incumbent of the Bellanwila Temple, stated to say things about the ‘terrorist lover’ tendencies of the channel- so they demonstrated their unbiasedness and media freedom by cutting out the live telephone connection…

According to them the attack is a significant one but as apparent by their almost jovial reporting of their ‘sad sad moment’ their news making capability hasn’t been effected at all…

So this led me into some thinking…
Who is behind the attack?

As implied by Sirasa (white van on a previous day etc., they having invented and associated the ‘white van’ concept with the state) it is the state.

But before jumping to these pre-cooked conclusions as prepared by the terrorist-lover hands behind Sirasa News First, let’s try to find out the answer to the age-old question in crime investigation: “who benefits from this crime?

There has to be a beneficiary, since according to Sirasa (white van scare at the gate on a previous day) this is pre-meditated. So it is not a ‘crime of passion’ against one of the remaining mouth pieces of the LTTE propaganda machine.

So who benefits?
The answer is obvious…

Who gets the sympathy of the ‘clueless Colombo posh class as lead by the permanent opposition leader Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe’ who are so fond of projecting Sri Lanka as a failed state?

Who gets ammunition in the big lie of projecting Sri Lanka as a ‘country without any media freedom’?
Paradoxically, media like Sirasa, Sunday Leader, Irudina, etc. etc. (get the idea…) are saying that there is no media freedom while enjoying and at times abusing the very same media freedom they say is not present.

Who increases the rating of their TV channels (and earns a lot of advertising money) by feasting on the news of a ‘media station being attacked in Colombo’?

So who benefits the most?
Obviously it is Sirasa itself!

I hope that the investigation teams strongly consider the possibility that the Sirasa attack is an ‘inside job’, after all, everything that was destroyed would have been fully insured….

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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
– ITN
– 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