Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Deriding the war heroes for a living - the ugly face of "Defence Analysts" in Sri Lanka

There has been much of controversy among the media and political circles over the stance taken by the Ministry of Defence on the media freedom in this country. Some have even called it a government's war on media; some call it an anti democratic stance taken by the government. Whatever it is, the Ministry stands affirm on its stance over the irresponsible defence reportage and will assure to take all necessary measures to stop this journalistic treachery against the country. Though, the has many a times explained the grounds of its stance, the Ministry finds that certain sections of media and political interlopers continue to mislead the public over the issue. Therefore, the Ministry being the institution responsible for national security informs all the media personnel and whoever other interested parties, the concerns it has over the behaviour of media in the context defence.

First of all, the Ministry clarifies that it has no concerns over media work other than those related to the national security and solidarity. No political battles, scandals, controversies, etc unrelated to the defence reportage does not come under the Ministry's purview. The following are the Ministry's concerns that all the responsible media personnel are expected to comprehend.

1. Sri Lanka is at a war. The citizens of this country are facing a serious threat from one of the most atrocious terrorists groups in the world and therefore they have the right to defend themselves like citizens of any other country in the world. The armed forces members of this country are engaged in the noble mission of liberating the country from the clutches of terrorism. Media personnel may have their individual reservations of the war against terror, but success of any war effort needs public support. Thus, whoever attempts to reduce the public support to the military by making false allegations and directing baseless criticism at armed forces personnel is supporting the terrorist organization that continuously murder citizens of Sri Lanka. The Ministry will continue to expose these traitors and their sinister motives and does not consider such exposure as a threat to media freedom. Those who commit such treachery should identify themselves with the LTTE rather than showing themselves as crusaders of Media Freedom.

2. There are 4 main issues that the Ministry concerns most about in defence reportage i.e. criticising military operations, promotion schemes, procurement and using unethical measures to obtain defence information.

i. Criticism over military operations-
Military operations are planned and conducted by the officers with 30-40 years of service. These officers are battle hardened and also equipped with the sound knowledge in warfare obtained by experience and professional education. The Ministry is in the view, that it is no one other than the military officers who are qualified to plan, conduct, and analyse military operations. Also, the Ministry does not consider those who call themselves "defence analysts" in the media profession in this country possess any military education or military experience to make any serious defence analysis. Therefore, those defence reporters should take the maximum effort to do their work under the pure reporting rules than misleading the public with inane comments that they are not qualified to make. The Ministry welcomed constructive criticism and new ideas, but does not wish to entertain mere doomsayers who always try to undermine the soldier's commitment.

Ministry views baseless criticisms over military operations as attempts to create semblance that the military is run by a set of incompetent or mediocre officers. If allowed to do so for a long time, such work will reduce the public confidence over the armed forces and ultimately lead to the loss of public support. On the other hand, the soldiers themselves are embarrassed and the country may loose the opportunity to get the best out of them. Hence, the Ministry will continue to counter such foul defence reportage that helps the terrorist, whether the so called "Media Rights Groups", call it a "hateful campaign" or not.

ii. Criticism over promotion schemes
The human resource of an organization is considered to be the most vital resource even in non-military organizations. This is an extremely important success factor in the military, as those commanders who lead the battle have to take their men to the field with the knowledge that they may even lose their lives. Thus, the officers' capability in leading the battle goes far beyond the mere seniority and media popularity. Thus, the Ministry wants the media to understand the simple logic that the commander must have the freedom to choose the best team for his mission to make it a successful one. There are laid down procedures in making promotion decisions for senior officers in armed forces and there are other grievance procedures available for all the members of the armed forces to redress their grievances. Thus, there is hardly any reason for military person to take their problems to media and bring disgrace upon the organization that looked after them for many long years.

On the other hand, such criticism on internal promotions does the same damage to the armed forces as mentioned above by embarrassing those officers who run the actual battle. They are being introduced to the public as those who are not qualified to hold their appointments and therefore they may not be able to carryout their duties in a happy environment. Also, public may look at the military as an organization run by incompetent people.

iii. Criticism over military procurement
It has been observed that many self-assumed defence analysts in this country are speculating frauds in each and every military procurement that the Ministry makes. If they are correct the military is the most corrupted organization in this country run by the most corrupted people. Thus, armed forces have no war heroes other than thieves who steal public money, according to these bogus defence analysts. The Ministry has serious concerns over this issue not because of the question of media's right to expose the frauds, but of the biased reporting on military procurements.

For instance, none of these "defence analysts" informs the public over the requirements of the armed forces and the urgency of meeting them when commenting on military procurement. Generally, they refer to the numbers and speculate some sort of a fraud without any base as to show the public that the funds are stolen and wasted. Ministry considers this type of reporting is highly damaging to an organization which plays a vital role for the benefit of the public and that requires public support more than anything else to play its role effectively. Hence, the Ministry urges those reporters to reveal the full story without concealing facts to the public when commenting on the defence procurement. The facts such as, the procurements were made on the requirements submitted by the tactical commanders, and on the recommendations made by expert technical evaluation boards should not be concealed from the public. It is a basic professional standard in journalism to verify facts from all the relevant parties particularly when publishing information damaging to the public image of an institution or even of an individual.

iv. Using unethical measures to obtain information
The final but the most serious concern the Ministry has on the defence reportage is the unethical measures that have been used to obtain information by some of these so called "defence analysts". It has been observed that some disgruntle personnel have been lured by these media people to give away even some of the most sensitive information to the national security. Some "analysts" even go on inducing heroism to their informants in armed forces as to show them as some sort of a rebels or freedom fighters fighting a secret battle against their "incompetent and corrupted" authorities.

On this issue the Ministry requests both the public as well as all media professional to understand the difference between a civilian organization and a military organization. In military there is no room for trade unionists, dissidents, rebels, freedom fighters and other similar odd personalities often found in civilian organizations. This is because of very good grounds, for a soldier is a defender of the nation but not his own personal interests. To defend the nation, the soldiers must possesses absolute and uncompromising loyalty towards the nation and also be partial to the government irrespective of the person who runs it. Therefore, the Ministry requests all discernible media professionals to understand that military is a vital national asset. A large amount of public money is being spent on the training, education, salaries, and other benefits on military personnel not because the public want them to be informants to the media agencies but to stay loyal to the nation, to fight for her and to safeguard the good order and the military discipline. Thus, military if lost discipline is nothing but a group of dependents that eat out public money without giving anything back to the country.

Any journalist that lures a soldier to give away information he is not authorised to give is instigating him or her to breach the military discipline. Likewise, if such journalists lure the soldier by exploiting his/her personal grievances, weaknesses, ego, and personal disputes or even by bribery; the journalist is inflicting an irreparable damage to one of the most valuable national asset. Thus, such journalists or "defence analysts" are no heroes but the enemies of the state that aims at destroying the most valuable public asset of a country at a war. The Ministry is in the view that if it is not the ignorance that causes any such journalist to engage in such irresponsible behaviour there should be no other reason than they are being hired by the terrorists, for they are doing a job of the enemy.

Above are the concerns that the Ministry has on the media work in the context of national defence. The Ministry expects all the responsible media professionals to comprehend that soldiers are in a noble mission; i.e: to rid the country from the scourge of terrorism.

Thus, the Ministry does not find any other word better than a "Traitor" to call whoever attempts to show the soldiers as thieves or fools by making false allegations and raising baseless criticism against them.

Related article : Stop Media treachery against armed forces members!

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