Friday, October 23, 2009

Freedom of speech is non-existent in Sri Lanka

In the guise of fighting terrorism, the Sri Lanka government has muzzled and suppressed the independent press to the degree that no single publication or electronic media outlet in Sri Lanka is allowed to practice journalism in the way it ought to be.

Dissent is non-existent, self-censorship the order of the day; the ultimate victim – the ordinary citizen of Sri Lanka whose sources of information have dried up so completely that his only version of events mirrors that of the regime of the day. Sri Lankan newspapers are forced to practice a Goebbelian form of reportage, thanks to totalitarian control over the media.

Joseph Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s most powerful weapon because his propaganda ensured the Nazis popular support. As Propaganda Minister in Hitler’s cabinet, Goebbels perfected an understanding of the "Big Lie" technique of propaganda, which is based on the principle that a lie, if audacious enough and repeated enough times, will be believed by the masses.

angerously, the theory led to success with most of Hitler’s Germany actually believing that they were on the right side of history until the very last moment which ended in the destruction of their country. It is tragic to see this trend taking root in Sri Lanka today –the same country that boasted such a vibrant and defiant press not so very long ago.

On the contrary, journalists have been slaughtered, abducted, assaulted, tortured and forced to flee their homeland all under the present regime. Investigations into a single one of these cases of brutality are yet to show any semblance of credibility.

Please remember the brutal murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, the horrific assault Upali Tennakoon and abductions of Keith Noyahr and Poddala Jayantha and the myriad incidents of violence perpetrated on those individuals whose only crime has been to attempt to give you a version of the story that the government does not want you to hear. These were ordinary men tasked with an unfortunate duty to report the facts; fathers, husbands, brothers just like any one of us.

Sri Lanka should awake to the reality of this systematic silencing that the long march to freedom and security can finally begin. No amount of Goebbelsian propaganda can keep the truth buried forever however.


  1. Thambi

    What about Tissa?
    The fact that Tissanayagam has been convicted, under dubious circumstances (confessions etc) of offences under misguided anti-terrorism legislation is a sad indictment of the state of affairs in Sri Lanka. The classic case of a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

    The irony is that if Tissanayagam had chosen to murder an impartial journalist (rather than criticize the government), he'd probably have escaped with impunity; or in the worst case, have been subjected to one of those "Independent inquiries" (euphemism for cover up) that Mahinda Rajapakse has a penchant for calling in response to similar outrages.

  2. Thamil

    Your article brings to mind Lasantha Wikremetunge's concerns about Mahinda Rajapakse's craving for absolute power and his brutal suppression of legitimate dissent under the guise of liberating the country. Sri Lankan journalists have exposed the Rajapakses for what they really are, and continue to pay the the price(extra-judicial killings; encounters with White Vans)for their intrepid stance.

  3. Sri Lanka regime brutal form of terror still permeates SL Island.

    a) Any impartial journalist who dares to highlight government injustice is subjected to “White vanning” or disappearance. Appeals for police protection fall on deaf ears. Moreover, the majority of such acts of terror take place in so called “High security zones” that are crawling with armed forces personnel.

    b) Lawyers decline to defend their clients because they fear being labelled as ”traitors” by government organs.

    c) Unelected members of the President’s family function as arbiters of what may or may not be published in the press. They have even gone as far as to threaten journalists who do not relent.

    d) The judicial system is overwhelmed by the huge number of manifestly unjust prosecutions that are intended solely as a means of cowing anyone who dares oppose the government. Any impartial judge is rendered impotent in the face of government delaying tactics that are designed to prolong unjust imprisonments under draconian laws.

    e) So called “democratic elections” are conducted with armed, government proxies roaming freely and intimidating voters at will. Independent journalists are prevented from access to these areas. One cannot think of any better definition of a rigged election!

    Whilst recognising that Mahinda Rajapakse was a doughty defender of human rights in the 80’s, however,today, he is responsible for the breakdown of civil society in Sri Lanka.

  4. Thamil

    The journalist will no doubt have the honour of entering the government blacklist of "enemies of the state, especially the ones who dare question the regime. Perhaps the TID would have a pretext to interview them at the airport alleging threats to national security?

    What is it about repressive regimes that make them so sensitive to contsructive criticism? Do the Rajapakse Brothers think that they can continue with this repression and just listen to their lackeys who would not dare draw attention to the Emperor's new clothes (or glaring lack of them, in this case

  5. Colombo1
    I still think the bulwarks of democracy (the judiciary and press) are battered and bruised but still standing; but for how long? Hard to say.

    There aren't many independent journalists left in Sri Lanka, but they are still alive and kicking, despite what the Brothers have in mind for them.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. SnailMail

    Nice to see Mawatha Silva reverting to its role as the scourge of would-be dictators!

    The Rajapkses have perfected the art of double-speak: on the one hand they have suave, western educated mouthpieces who put an attractive spin on their repression and, on the other, depend on good old fashioned enforcers who stifle lawful dissent by violent means.

    Any criticism of the government is conduct that justifies a visit from the spooks in the TID. Surely, isn't this a sign that Mahinda Rajapakse is desperate?

  8. Colombo1
    On a positive note, Bloggers like you, Mawatha Silva act like a whiff of oxygen to the independent media that is under siege.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. cartoons
    Remembering 1983
    Brothers in arms
    APRC awaits 'Mahinda Chinthana'
    Lessons from the past
    International assistance
    One more try?
    Heroes' Day
    Call to talks
    Moment of Understanding
    Words and deeds
    Path to Peace
    Peace Front
    Modern State
    Peace Move
    New Age
    Who to lead?
    Last Word
    Southern Trooper
    True Colours

  10. Thamil

    Thank you , friend, for very nice links

  11. Thambi

    A Tamil student in Jaffna commits suicide because of the deep depression being separated from his family imprisoned in one of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) concentration camps in Vavuniyaa.