Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stop Media treachery against armed forces members!

We are living in a country, which is badly torn by a vicious 28 year old war. Over 70,000 lives have perished so far, simply because we have failed to eliminate the brutal terrorist organization we have been fighting with. Why we have failed in the battle may have myriad explanations. Among them what stands out most is the failure of successive governments to rally sufficient international and public support to sustain any meaningful military effort. This failure should be attributed to the strong anti Sri Lankan propaganda mechanism operated by the LTTE sympathizers and indeed to the lack of counter strategies on the part of the government.

However, today our nation's struggle to be rid of terrorism has come to its most decisive stage. It has been proven more than once that we are dealing with an enemy with whom no rational dialogue is possible. We suffered many painful losses in learning this bitter lesson. We may be a nation notorious for having short memories, but we cannot afford to forget that V. Prabhakaran is a remorseless megalomaniac. He is in pursuit of an ethnically "pure" state that bows to the cult of his personality. His followers place their messianic zeal on this utopian state and are equally fanatical as their leader. On the orders of their bloodthirsty chieftain and being carefully fuelled by his extreme tribal ideologies, LTTE cadres have butchered tens of thousands of people in various terror attacks. Moreover, the bitterest part of the reality is that there lives a part of our brethren in the North in the evil grip of a one mad man and his army of fanatics. This is the truth about this country that no discernible Sri Lankan can deny. Thus, we must have the right to defend ourselves, we must have the right to live in a country free of terrorism and that is exactly why our soldiers are risking their lives in the battlefield.

With the above points we want our viewers to draw their attention to the relationship among three phenomena, i.e. the on-going war on terror, anti-Sri Lankan propaganda and LTTE terrorism. The simple formula that governs the relationship is that whenever the military is gaining success and the government adapts a bold uncompromising policy against terrorism, the terrorists intensify psychological operations and propaganda against the defence authorities. The obvious aim of this is to bring international and public pressure on the government to abandon the military effort. The recent trends in the sections of the media show that these anti-Sri Lankan sentiments have been reaching its highest levels in the last three decades. The most recent example is the campaign undertaken by the usual LTTE stooges in the media over a reported assault on journalist Keith Noyahr.

An NGO, which is known to have great penchant to make tendentious allegations against members of the armed forces in a statement on this matter speculates of a connection between the alleged attack and the soldiers. The Free Media Movement (FMM) as it calls itself and is glad to spread lies and rumours speculating that Mr. Noyahr had been beaten up because of his criticism of high ranking military officials and for his independent reportage over defence matters.

It states, "There is no other reason for this latest attack against a journalist than his independent writing and analysis of the war in the North, if that is a reason at all. His reporting was critical of high-ranking military officers and the Government's approach to and conduct of the war".

Interestingly, the FMM made these allegation just days after it had spread a lie that the defence ministry is committing "cyber crimes" against web based independent news agencies. Although the Ministry requested the NGO to withdraw the statement the reply received showed none other than the insolence and intolerance of this so called "media rights group" over the government's right to inform the public about such matters. Further, the same organization had been quoted by Mr. Iqbal Athas in his foul reportage on the Muhamalai incident to record the army deaths in hundreds. Therefore, it is natural for any soldier to feel that this NGO is engaged in a malicious propaganda campaign against members of the armed forces of this country.

We are humble enough to admit that as soldiers we are not qualified to enough to write in-depth analysis on media freedom and related ethics. However, as soldiers who are engaged in the uphill task of defeating the false propaganda campaigns against our nation we have some knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of the media profession. We know it is wrong for any media person to support any party that promotes communalism; we know it is wrong to give casualty figures without sources, and we know it is wrong to hold somebody responsible for a crime without sufficient evidence. In our view, the FMM's attempt to hold the armed forces' members responsible for the assault on Mr. Noyahr does not go with the ethics of the media profession. However, we leave that issue to the learned media professionals in this country to decide.

Nevertheless, there is something we are quite qualified to comment on, i.e. about the motives and conduct of a propaganda work, for it is a kind of a weapon in warfare.

It is a well known fact that the LTTE carries out its propaganda work through politically sympathetic pressure groups and media units. Their activities are coordinated by an overarching umbrella of front organizations that operate in spheres of Human Rights, Relief work, Civil Rights, Peace Building, etc. Anti Sri Lankan campaign against the Sri Lankan cricket team carried out during last World Cup, and the ballyhoos aimed at outvoting Sri Lanka from the Human Rights Council few days ago, are some of the examples of the terrorist propaganda work. Not only have the terrorist propagandists lobbied some populist Human Rights professionals but they have also been able to lure some of these activists to speak in favour of the most brutal terrorist organization known to mankind. In reality, the LTTE had a free run in getting the international opinion in its favour by smartly playing the Human Rights card until the late 90s.

Apropos of Mr. Noyahr's case, we have seen that even some truly independent media persons have raised doubts about the possibility of the armed forces having a hand in the incident. According them, the FMM has pointed its finger where there is room for doubt, and nothing more. We can empathize with their feelings on the grievance about their fellow journalist, and do not try to extenuate the situation if any armed forces' members are involved in the incident. But we too have our doubts of how the whole episode had transpired.

Firstly, the timing of the attack was so perfect that it gave the maximum opportunity for the anti Sri Lankan propagandists to draw sympathy towards them. The attack took place on the day following day when Sri Lanka lost its seat in the HRC. This was something that anti Sri Lankan organizations called a great achievement for them, for they can get huge foreign findings if exploited effectively. The FMM was so quick to make a statement blaming the government for the attack. Then the incident followed a great hue and cry against the Sri Lankan defence authorities on the part of those dollar vultures in many foreign funded NGOs. Ironically, but understandably, the FMM even claimed the credit for the "quick" release of the victim who is said to have returned home with soaring wounds. In our view, no organization other than the FMM has benefited by the incident. Therefore, there lies a reasonable doubt on the real motives of the perpetrators of the alleged attack.

Secondly, we have reasonable concerns over the behaviour of the FMM itself. We have never seen Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya, the convener of the FMM, wailing in the Sirasa TV over the media freedom in the LTTE held areas. Like Sirasa TV taking great care to avoid the word LTTE in reporting whatever civilian massacres committed by the terrorists, the FMM observes an abominable silence or self censorship over all violence committed by the LTTE against media personnel. We can understand the motives of their paymasters but the acolytes should no longer be allowed to conceal their work under the free media curtain. In our view this type of media organizations are the subtlest form of terror propaganda machines.

Thirdly, we have serious concerns over this "defence analyst" issue. We do not mind any person trying to make his living by writing whatever crap to the newspapers. It is the freedom of expression that we have vowed safeguard even at the risk of our lives. Yet, we too have our right to lay bare the truth of those cowboy defence analysts, for the good of the public. War is handled by officers with 35-40 years of service, who had spend most of their lives in the battlefront, we seriously do not believe that people like Mr. Iqbal Athas have any capability to question about military tactics, service promotion schemes or even about the military procurement.

For instance, some of the so called "defence analysts" in Sri Lanka have a great tendency to give a misleading picture on military procurements. They always quote numbers and try to speculate something fishy about the deals. Nevertheless, they rarely inform the public about the needs of the soldiers and the urgency of meeting such requirements. Those speculations are very often aimed at character assassinations of the service commanders than informing the public. What these "analysts "hide form the public is that all these procurements are being made after a thorough analysis by expert technical evaluation boards and on their recommendations. Also, what the public is unaware about these mean spirited people is that they are being highly paid by the weapons dealers for acting as opinion makers for them.

On the other hand, it is often observed that decisions on promotions of the service commanders are being often criticized by the media ignoring the damage that such criticism can cause to the soldiers' morale. It is a well known fact even in the non military organizations the head of the institution must have the right to choose the best people for the mission he/her leads. It is the leader who knows the capabilities of his followers' best than any other person. Thus, if the media tries showing a picture that the armed forces are being lead by incompetent people; it will obviously damage the loyalty of the soldiers towards their commanders on whom they must keep faith in battle.

Therefore , those people can raise any doubts or even make false allegations to secure their income, but once they are being answered at least they should have the courtesy to admit that they were wrong without cursing the authorities. Gone are the days of such professionals, it seems. The media freedom in this country has been encroached upon by few sociopaths that can be found in almost all anti Sri Lankan outfits.

Last but not least, the concern we have about the work of these people is the damage they try to inflict on military discipline. The fighting capability of any military depends on the discipline of the rank and file. Thus, the best way to ensure the defeat of an army is to break the discipline by spreading rumours, promoting disloyalty, exploiting personal grudges, carrying tales, engineering personal disputes etc. So, whoever lures disgruntle members of the armed forces to act against the good order and the military discipline of the service, he is committing treachery against the nation.

We have seen in the media that the Editor of the newspaper, Mr. Lalith Alahakoon, had even contacted Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and informed him about the alleged incident. Further, the President himself said to have contacted the editor as soon as he received the information on the incident. That shows importance that had been given to the plight of journalist in this country. On the other hand, if Mr. Noyahr had really criticized the soldiers as claimed by the FMM, he is not the only one who does this for the job. Up to now, no one has made official complaints that they have been threatened other than making intermittent cries in the media, just to get some public attention. Therefore, we do not believe that Sri Lanka's media freedom has any threat from our soldiers. But of course there may be other problems that the media people may have to face when they try to do too much dirty work of their paymasters. Any discernible person who sees Sirasa TV, or reads the Sunday Leader, the Morning Leader, Iru Dina, the Daily Mirror, and the Sunday Times, Lanka Dissent, Lanka E news, etc can understand the way that the soldiers are being humiliated, scorned and blamed. Up to now, we have never mentioned a word over such shameful institutions even on this website for we know the public are not moved by the trite campaigns undertaken by their paid Cassandras. However, we urge the government to be mindful excessive falsification of facts committed by some of the agencies as such action may be detrimental to the national interest in the international forums.

No doubt that media freedom is sacrosanct in a democratic society. It is secured in our constitution that we have sworn to protect unto our death. However, it should be noted that the free media would only flourish in a society free of terrorism. The armed forces' members of this country are engaged in this noble mission not only for the benefit of their own but also for the whole nation. Thus, we call all members of the armed forces to unite and guard against these treacherous media campaign against them. Also, we request all responsible media persons to not to undermine the soldiers' effort for the greater good of the country. Any division of interests between us will only give the advantage to the common enemy and hand over our burden to another generation.

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