It is not possible to talk of the media in the conventional sense any more. The time when the mainstream media dominated the flow of information and opinion has been diminished. The explosion of media outlets — from housewives reporting inside houses in Libya under attack to social media covering Thahir Square in Egypt, or the insane fury of the youth going berserk in London — have had a serious impact on media reporting. “Unverified reports”, meaning sources outside the mainstream media, are now a regular part of BBC, CNN and other international media outlets. Social media, which is well equipped with the latest technology to cover events exploring in their corner of the world, is at an advantage over the mainstream media to report on the latest events from their corner of the world. Most of all, activists are no longer depended on the mainstream media to motivate them. Their messages get through faster and effectively.
Though “unverified” reports of the social media are used to lend credence to the mainstream news broadcast from BBC, CNN, Aljazeera etc., the final control of the flow of information still remains in the hands of the Western owners of mass media. The inquiry into the media empire of Rupert Murdoch revealed how the Western Presidents and Prime Ministers hob-nob with the Murdoch’s to get a favourable media for their political agenda. It not only exposed the corruption within the media but also some of the myths of free media of the West.
At the heart of the media crisis is the issue of media control not only to propagate an ideology but also to manage the media to determine the outcome of a political agenda wherever possible.
In the last days of the War in Sri Lanka BBC and other media used “unverified reports” — i.e., the footage sent from the war zone — to highlight the LTTE angle. Doctored and highly controversial images were also used by the Chanel 4 “Killing Fields” without revealing their sources or giving the names of the victims, the location or the time.
The use of the media by the LTTE needs a special study. In the main Tamil media can be categorized into four main areas:
1. Media Based in
2 Media based in Colombo;
3. Media based In Tamil Nadu
4.Media Based in Europe and elsewhere where there is a large concentration of the Tamil Diaspora.
The only palpable difference in
this scenario was the geography. Other than that the Tamil media, with a very few exceptions, toed the line of the Tamil Tigers. Those who disagreed were labelled and ostracized as “traitors”. Their ideological blindness forced them to go down the path that led all the way to Nandikadal. If the Tamil media played its dutiful role the Tamils of Sri Lanka would have saved many lives, property most of all a generation of Tamil youth who could have been an asset to the Tamil people.
But there is no point in crying over spillover milk. The question facing media now is very simple: should they follow the failed politicians and go back in time the Vadukoddai Resolution or should they follow the people. who are actually leaderless and create a new political culture. The creation of a new political culture and a new political leadership is a primary need. There is no future for us in rejecting everything done by GOSL and directing politics back to where we began. There is a positive side to politics now. All parties agree that rapid progress has been made in the north and the east.
The choice for the people right now now is between politics and economics. It is agreed by all rational people that after 33-years of war starting from the Vadukoddai Resolution the war-weary people there is hope for reconciliation and peace.
Our self-seeking politicians, who enjoy all the economic benefits and protection of the GOSL, has not made any positive move to recognize the economic upliftment of the people. They know that there are no votes in that. The role of the media is to lead now. The media can no longer afford to follow the politicians as they had done in the past.
The media must step in boldly and save the people from going the failed path again. They have the capacity to do so now that the LTTE threats are no longer hanging over their heads.
The new role of the media is to give hope. Earlier the media played a negative role. The chance has come for the media to play a positive role. There is a concerted effort together with the itnernaitnal community to uplift the standards of the Tamil people. We can’t harp on the same old politics. Our people need to lift themselves up before looking for the utopia. If we could not get it with all the might we put into a 33-year old war. it is foolish to depend on foreigners to bring us Eelam. The Tamil people have been made use of by foreigners for their own objectives. The media must be alert to this trap. The media has a great responsibility now. It is their turn now to lead the people in a more sensible path.
They must create new values and the youth of Jaffna in the 20s were the radicals who gave new leadership to the entire nation. The Tamil media failed to take on the Tamil leadership when it went wrong. If the Tamil media questioned them we could have avoided the disaster we faced.
Let me reveal a few key examples where the questions should have been raised.
1 Elimination of so-called traitors that led to the liquidation of talented opinion – makers from the Tamil community
2 Elimination of all other Tamil Militant Groups.
3 Waging a war against Indian army
4 Killing Rajiv Gandhi in the Indian soil
5 Establishing prisons which were in reality, concentration-camps in LTTE controlled area where inhuman torture and killings took place
6 Ethnic cleansing of the Muslims from North and unleashing brutality in the east
7 Failure to grab the opportunities of Indo – Lanka P, Chandrika’s Proposals and the CFA where the Tamils got the best deal ever with international guarantees
8 Failure to workout a solution with Karuna faction and the Eastern wing
During all of the above blunders by the LTTE the Tamil media collectively and logically justified them directly or indirectly. And they went further to black out or censor the other opinion which were critical, further more they never hesitated to label the other opinion holders as traitors. By hero-worshiping the Tamil Tigers and blacking out critical opinion who suffered most? There is no doubt it is the Tamil people and, of course, the Tamil Tigers who believed in their own propaganda until they met their fate in Mullivaikall.
The primary task of the Tamil media is to identify and analyse the new realities to avoid the mistakes of the past. Can we afford another Mullivaikall? Do our people deserve another blood bath? Tamil media must take the lead and save the people. We can’t trust the politicians? They have to ask serious questions about the past to learn from it and go forward.
The Tamils are at the crossroads again. The time has come for them to decide which path they will take into the future. The choice is between the failed past and the new future without loss of population either through migration of war. The decreasing population figures must be calculated into a future program. Peace and economic growth can guarantee a stable society. It should be the role of the media to re-define our position and open the pages for free and fair discussion.
It is pretty clear that no future can be defined or determined with the pages of the Tamil media being closed to varied points of view.
The Tamil media has to defend the Tamils and that can be done only by opening the doors for the Tamil to come in and debate and discuss alternatives. A closed media will lead to a closed society. Only open societies have progress in history. It is the time that the Tamil media woke up to this reality.