BBC Tactics in Covering North Korea Are Faulted


By 
Published: April 14, 2013, NYT
BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place at the ...

BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place at the head of Regent Street, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As tensions escalated between North Korea and the world late last month, a small group of students from the prestigious London School of Economics crossed the border into the reclusive country for what was described by organizers as a government-sanctioned “week of sight seeing, meeting with ministers, government officials” and academics.

 But among the students, the university announced in an outraged statement over the weekend, were three BBC journalists filming an undercover documentary. The BBC, the university said, “deliberately misled” the group to underplay the scope of the reporting, placed the students in danger and jeopardized its work in politically fraught nations. It demanded that the BBC pull the film, set for broadcast on Monday, and issue an apology.

The BBC declined, saying that the documentary on a country so few people understand was in the public interest. And in a statement released Sunday, the BBC disputed the university’s account. It said the students had been told that a journalist would be present “and were reminded of it again, in time to have been able to change their plans if they wanted to.”

But the BBC, which the university says actually sent three journalists, also later acknowledged that it had not told the students of the nature of the documentary, in what it characterized as a bid to keep them safe if the journalists were found out and the students were questioned about what they knew.

Although at least some tourists are now allowed into the police state, reporters need government permission to work there and are assigned minders. In 2009 two American journalists, Laura Ling, then 32, and Euna Lee, then 36, were arrested and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after being accused of illegally entering North Korean territory while researching a report on women and human trafficking. They were spared the prospect of years in a brutal gulag when former President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang and negotiated their release four months later.

Alex Peters-Day, the lead student representative for the university, said Sunday that students had received e-mails from the North Korean government on their return saying that it had learned that reporters were with the group and was very angry. Ms. Peters-Day disputed the BBC version of events, saying the students had not been given enough information to give informed consent.

Craig Calhoun, the university’s director, said in a post on Twitter that the trip “was not an official LSE trip.” He said the BBC had essentially recruited some students in a university-affiliated student international relations group, the Grimshaw Club, and had “passed it off” as a student trip.

Ms. Peters-Day said that students had received an e-mail suggesting the trip from one of the BBC journalists, Tomiko Sweeney, who is married to the lead reporter on the documentary, John Sweeney, and is a former LSE student. Mr. Sweeney did not respond to a message left on his cellphone, but said, in a BBC radio interview and on Twitter that he disputed the school’s allegations. There was no answer at a London number listed for the couple.

Ceri Thomas, the BBC’s head of news, said Sunday that though the trip had been organized by Mr. Sweeney’s wife, it “was going to happen before the BBC got involved.” The students were warned of the dangers in two meetings in London and again in Beijing, he said. “The only people we deceived,” he said of the documentary, “was the North Korean government. And if the students were in on that deception they were in a worse position.”

The public interest argument for the documentary was “overwhelming,” Mr. Thomas said. North Korea is “a country that is hidden from view, where we suspect that brutal things are happening, one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet which is threatening nuclear war in the Korean Peninsula.”

The standoff marks the second time this year that the world’s delicate diplomatic dance with North Korea over its escalating nuclear threats has been disturbed by a television crew. In late February, the magazine Vice sent the former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang to meet the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, an avid basketball fan, for a documentary series it is producing in collaboration with HBO.

That heavily covered visit, after the country’s latest nuclear test in defiance of world powers, allowed the young Mr. Kim to present himself — at least to his people — as someone who is respected outside his country.
The BBC’s Mr. Sweeney is a veteran television reporter famed for his tangles with the Church of Scientology. The North Korean guides, the university said, called him “professor.”

The documentary, titled “North Korea Undercover” and part of the BBC’s flagship Panorama series, shows a “landscape bleak beyond words, a people brainwashed for three generations and a regime happy to give the impression of marching towards Armageddon,” according to the BBC’s Web site. Unlike Mr. Rodman, Mr. Sweeney appears not to have gained access to the North Korean inner circle.

Stephen J. A. Ward, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, expressed surprise that the BBC had chosen to report the story as it did, though he acknowledged that undercover journalism is a widely accepted practice in Britain. “You have to be able to say ‘there is no other way we can get this story,’ and that you’re not putting other people in danger,” he said.

The Associated Press has had a bureau in Pyongyang since 2012.

Universities UK, a body that represents British universities, criticized the BBC on Sunday.

“The way that this BBC investigation was conducted might not only have put students’ safety at risk,” Nicola Dandridge, the group’s chief executive, told reporters, “but may also have damaged our universities’ reputations overseas.”

Late last year, the BBC’s ethical standards were questioned when it emerged that one of its presenters, Jimmy Savile, had faced accusations of sexual abuse spanning his long career. The BBC had declined to broadcast a news investigation into the accusations, but did broadcast two glowing tributes to Mr. Savile after his death in 2011.

The London School of Economics became embroiled in difficulties of its own with an oppressive regime when it emerged in 2011 that it had close links with the government of Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, including accepting training contracts worth millions and a donation from the dictator’s son Seif al-Islam Qaddafi. It eventually diverted the money to a scholarship fund for North African students.

Inspiration on Investigative Journalism- How ICIJ’s Project Team Analyzed the Offshore Files


Networking in the offshore world – ICIJ used advanced tools like Nuix to see how offshore providers linked up.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’exploration of the secretive world of offshore companies and trusts began after a computer hard drive packed with corporate data and personal information and e-mails arrived in the mail.

Gerard Ryle, ICIJ’s director, obtained the data trove as a result of his three-year investigation of Australia’s Firepower scandal, a case involving offshore havens and corporate fraud.

The offshore information totaled more than 260 gigabytes of useful data. ICIJ’s analysis of the hard drive showed that it held about 2.5 million files, including more than 2 million e-mails that help chart the offshore industry over a long period of explosive growth.  It is one of the biggest collections of leaked data ever gathered and analyzed by a team of investigative journalists.

The drive contained four large databases plus half a million text, PDF, spreadsheet, image and web files. Analysis by ICIJ’s data experts showed that the data originated in 10 offshore jurisdictions, including the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and Singapore.  It included details of more than 122,000 offshore companies or trusts, nearly 12,000 intermediaries (agents or “introducers”), and about 130,000 records on the people and agents who run, own, benefit from or hide behind offshore companies.

When ICIJ further analyzed the data using sophisticated matching software, it found that about 40 percent of files and emails were duplicates.

The people identified in ICIJ’s analysis of the data are shareholders, directors, secretaries and nominees of companies and trustees, “settlors” or “protectors” of offshore trusts, as well as power-of-attorney holders who direct the actions of third parties. Many of the structures are designed to conceal the true ownership and control of assets placed offshore.   Their identified addresses are spread across over more than 170 countries and territories.

A large number of positions are held by so called “nominee directors,” whose names appear again and again, sometimes in hundreds of companies.  Nominee directors are people who, for a fee, lend their names as office holders of companies they know little about.  It is a legal device widely utilized in the offshore world – akin to having your motor vehicle registered in the name of a stranger.

The records indicated that company directors and shareholders were often nominee companies, law firms or other types of “corporate persons,” some of which were managed and owned by still other nominees and companies.

ICIJ’s data analysis showed that the people setting up offshore entities lived most often in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Another important group of clients comes from Russia and former Soviet republics.  This helps explain why the second-largest source of capital investment flowing into China is the tiny offshore tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.  Similarly, a large source of investment flowing into Russia is from Cyprus, a country that also features heavily in the data – and whose financial stability was recently undermined by a crisis precipitated by Cypriot-based banks being bloated by Russian money.

ICIJ’s team of 86 investigative journalists from 46 countries represents one of the biggest cross-border investigative partnerships in journalism history. Unique digital systems supported private document and information sharing, as well as collaborative research. These included a message center hosted in Europe and a U.S.-based secure online search system.  Team members also used a secure, private online bulletin board system to share stories and tips.

The project team’s attempts to use encrypted e-mail systems such as PGP (“Pretty Good Privacy”) were abandoned because of complexity and unreliability that slowed down information sharing. Studies have shown that police and government agents – and even terrorists – also struggle to use secure e-mail systems effectively.  Other complex cryptographic systems popular with computer hackers were not considered for the same reasons.  While many team members had sophisticated computer knowledge and could use such tools well, many more did not.

Tackling the data

Analyzing the high volume of information was the team’s first and central challenge.  With this much data, relevant information, and good stories, cannot be found just “going and looking.”  What’s needed is to use “free text retrieval” (FTR) software systems.

Modern FTR systems can work with huge volumes of unsorted data, many times larger than even in this landmark investigative project.  They pre-index every number, word and name, making it possible for complex queries to be completed in milliseconds. The searches are akin to using advanced features on Google or other internet search engines but are more sophisticated – and, critically, are private and secure.

The use of FTR, as well as relevant features such as timelines that tools can extract and display, have been critical to the success of the project.  It sounds complicated, but still boils down to asking one of the most important questions that investigative journalists ask: “Who knew what, when?”

In their modern form, high-end FTR and analysis systems have been sold for more than a decade, in large quantities, to intelligence agencies, law firms and commercial corporations.  Journalism is just catching up.  Many of the tools are too expensive for most journalism organizations and may be too sophisticated for most to use. Perhaps the best-known intelligence analysis system, i2 Analysts Notebook, has been used by very few journalists or news organizations.

The major software tools used for the Offshore Project wereNUIX of Sydney, Australia, and dtSearch of Bethesda, Md.  NUIX Pty Ltd provided ICIJ with a limited number of licenses to use its fully featured high-end e-discovery software, free of charge. The listed cost for the NUIX software was higher than a non-profit organization like the ICIJ could afford, if the software had not been donated.

Computer programmers in Germany, the UK and Costa Rica designed sophisticated data mining and cleaning software for ICIJ to support data research. Before it was used, though, manual analysis had established much country-by-country identification of clients and thus provided an initial look at the scope and range of clients. This painstaking work was done in New Zealand and it proved crucial in early decisions on what countries ICIJ needed reporters to work in.

ICIJ’s online search and retrieval system – named Interdata – was developed and deployed by a British programmer in less than two weeks in December 2012 to support an urgent need to get relevant documents and files out faster for research by dozens of new journalists who were joining the expanding Offshore Project.

Interdata allowed team members to access and download copies of any of the offshore documents that were relevant to their countries and interests.  Journalists using the Interdata system have to date made over 28,000 online searches and downloaded more than 53,000 documents.

Unreadable documents

Before loading Interdata or using NUIX or similar analysis tools, the team’s data experts had to deal with a major problem affecting tens of thousands of the leaked documents.  Computers could not automatically read them because they were photographs or other images that do not contain text.

The solution was large scale re-scanning of unreadable files by optical character recognition (OCR) software that identifies and writes in the names and numbers on top of the images.  This brought to the surface dozens of important new documents, including passports, contracts and letters explaining how companies were controlled.

ICIJ’s offshore 260-gigabyte data collection is more than 160 times larger in size as measured in gigabytes than the U.S. State Department cables leaked to and published by Wikileaks in 2010.  The formats of the data that ICIJ’s team worked with were more complex and diffuse than the collected U.S. State Department cables passed to Wikileaks, and needed more levels of analysis.

One specially built program has been prepared to check and match names and addresses, and has spotted thousands of cases where the same person’s data has been entered numerous times in different ways for different companies. Another special program identifies the country associated with each person and company, even when geographic data has not been entered fully or correctly.

Unlike the U.S. cables and war logs released by Wikileaks, the offshore data was not structured or clean.  As delivered, it consisted of a large and mainly unsorted collation of company and trust documents and instructions, e-mails, large and small databases and spreadsheets, personal identity documents, accounting information and agents’ and companies’ internal papers and reports.

As might be expected in any office computer network, many documents and e-mails had been shared and copied many times over.  Some of the programs ICIJ used could automatically sift out duplicates, but others could not.

Large databases detailing offshore companies and the people who had set up and operated them were found in the data.  Over three months, ICIJ recovered and rebuilt the databases in an effort to run them in their original format. When the database reconstruction was done, there were surprises.  The databases had been built to record and check who really lay behind each company and trust, as required by international regulations on money laundering and “due diligence.”   ICIJ’s journalists hoped the data as to who was behind a company was a click away.

In fact, database entries for “beneficial owners” were often empty. Often too, the offshore services providers had passed the legal responsibility for holding the information to intermediaries in other countries who had brought the client to the service provider.   The lesson was that the empty fields were not an accident; it was the design.

A frustrating but rewarding road

In the rebuilt databases, researchers were excited by occasional electronic flashes. Sometimes, on accessing a company record, an alert screen popped up over the registered data, giving a name and contact details for the person or persons who really owned the company and its assets.   A further feature in one database masked a deeper layer of secrecy, identifying thousands of people as hidden stand-ins.

ICIJ’s fundamental lesson from the Offshore Project data has been patience and perseverance. Many members started by feeding in lists of names of politicians, tycoons, suspected or convicted fraudsters and the like, hoping that bank accounts and scam plots would just pop out.  It was a frustrating road to follow.  The data was not like that.

But persistently following leads through incomplete data and documents yielded some great rewards: not just occasional and unexpected top names, but also many more nuanced and complex schemes for hiding wealth.  Some of the schemes spotted, although well known in the offshore trade, have not been described publicly before.  Patience was rewarded when this data opened new windows on the offshore world.

Duncan Campbell (U.K.), a founding member of ICIJ, is the ICIJ Data Journalism Manager for the Offshore Project and a contributing journalist.  ProgrammersSebastian Mondial (Germany), Matthew Fowler (UK), Rigoberto Carvajal and Matthew Caruana (Costa Rica) provided custom software design, programming and data support. The initial manual analysis of the client names was done by ICIJ memberNicky Hager and Barbara Mare (New Zealand). ICIJ member Giannina Segnini oversaw the work in Costa Rica.

 

No place for Dayamani, in mainstream media why ?


No place for Dayamani, Media Watch, Thehoot .org
A significant agitation against land acquisition and the bail and re-arrest of its leader were barely noticed by mainstream media.
 Isn’t it the media’s disdain for lower caste/class dissenters, wonders ARITRA BHATTACHARYA. Pix: Dayamani Barla, Indiatogether.org
 Friday, Oct 26 11:16:49, 2012

I remember my first glimpse of Dayamani Barla: there she was on the screen, fierce, stoic, talking about the ravages the Koel Karo dam and hydel power project would bring to the people of the region. I remember thinking of her as a charismatic-yet-grounded activist then, taking my cue from the images flickering on the screen. She was featured on a documentary on radical women writers, poets, and activists I think, but I may be wrong; I remember nothing of the documentary except that I encountered Dayamani Barla (and Putul Murmu) there for the first time.

Since that day in 2007, I encountered Barla on numerous occasions–in news reports on agitations against land acquisition, in meetings and agitations against excesses committed by the state, in newsletters of grassroots NGOs, and in her own writings on numerous issues.

And so, it wasn’t so much of a surprise when I came across this news report stating that she’d been sent to jail in a 2006 case. Of late, the convener of the Adivasi-Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch and one of the national conveners of National Alliance for People’s Movement had been camping with villagers in Nagri, who were protesting against the “acquisition” of fertile agricultural land for the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the NationalUniversity for Study and Research in Law (NUSRL). Barla’s activities as a journalist turned anti-displacement (tribal, woman) activist had been a sore point for the Jharkhand government, and her participation in the Nagri agitation perhaps tested the State’s patience, which sent the police to hound her. She evaded arrest and surrendered before the court on October 16 and was granted bail two days later.

The jail authorities, however, refused to release Barla on October 19, and instead said that she had been arrested in a fresh case. Among similar instances, my mind went back to the occasion when activist Arun Ferreira was re-arrested in front of the very jail he was released from this January. Like Barla, Ferreira had spent years exposing the excesses of the state, and it’s no secret that the state’s machinery tries to keep such elements behind bars.

Barla’s bail and her re-arrest, however, were hardly noticed by the mainstream media. None of the big three among the English papers—The Times of IndiaHindustan Times, and Indian Expresscarried a story on Barla’s bail and re-arrest. There was no story either on the two English television news networks–NDTV and CNN-IBN.

What was more surprising, however, was the fact that while Dainik JagranHindustan andAmar Ujala had no story on her surrender, bail, or re-arrest, Dainik Bhaskar and Navbharat Times reported her surrender before the court, but had no story on her being granted bail, and her subsequent re-arrest. Only Prabhat Khabar, the paper Barla used to write for, carried ashort article on October 19 on her being granted bail. But even here, there was no report on her being re-arrested thereafter.

Holy cows

It has often been observed by media analysts that the regional media is more sensitive to local happenings, and the spurt in the regional media’s readership and circulation owes a lot to the localization of content. What might the exclusion of news about Barla’s re-arrest tell us about the regional media then?

For one, it might point to the fact that across the board, the media considers the IIMs and such educational institutions as holy cows; they are, like the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, a matter of prestige, and essential to the progress of the country. Anyone opposing these is viewed with deep suspicion therefore. So also Barla.

Another factor to keep in mind perhaps in the context of localization of the regional media’s content and the exclusion of Barla’s bail and re-arrest is numbers. Barla surrendered before the court against the backdrop of the Nagri agitation. Arguably, the 153 families that are the landowners–or project-affected in the land acquisition for IIM and NUSRL, on paper–do not constitute a large enough number for the regional media to take notice and tweak their content.

Also, when a paper carries an article on someone being sent to a 14-day judicial custody, mentioning the charges she is accused of, but chooses not to report on her being subsequently granted bail and then re-arrested–like in the case of Dainik Bhaskar and Navbharat Times–where does that leave the reader? Does such partial news serve to discredit/malign the activist in the eyes of the reader?

Since the IIM is a matter of prestige, it comes as no surprise that The Times of India did cover the Nagri protest. The article in the paper, however, does not mince words about which side it is on, when it states, “All the protesters, led by Barla, were carrying traditional weapons and attacked the policemen on duty”. With this one statement, an alleged act of attacking the policemen on duty, in a case for which the accused has not even appeared in court, is converted into an undisputed fact.

Still more curious is The Times of India’s attribution of a quote to Barla for a story datelined October 20. How did the paper manage to speak to Barla when she was supposedly in jail? Are we, as readers, to disregard the Asian Human Rights Committee report which states that Barla has been in jail since October 16? In the TOI’s scheme of things, Barla was clearly still leading the protesters!

Pecking order

Does the exclusion of Barla’s bail and re-arrest reflect the social hierarchies that the media is deeply entrenched in? Tehelka happens to be the only mainstream media outlet in English that has carried a story on Barla and the Nagri agitation. (Or is it Nargi? Why does Tehelka say it’s Nargi, when everyone else across the Hindi and English media calls it Nagri? Further, why doesTehelka state that Barla surrendered before the Jharkhand police when everyone else says she surrendered before the local court?).

In the media’s pecking order perhaps, Barla is not a credible activist; at least she’s not big enough for her case to be reported.  

To be considered powerful/ credible in the mediascape, an activist has to be based in Delhi, and/or take potshots at big politicians (readers might recall how the national media “discovered” Anna once he shifted “base” to Delhi; we might recall Kejriwal too. And also think of how the media ignored P.V. Rajagopal and his march though the numbers he was commanding was more than Anna Hazare’ s).

It has often been said that non-violent agitation requires an audience to be effective, and in the context of agitations in rural areas, this audience is absent. And so is the media, which does not bother to report on an agitation unless the numbers are big enough for it not to ignore. The absence of media reports often becomes a credible ploy in the hands of the state in its efforts to criminalise dissent. No media coverage could very well feed into the theory that the dissenter was carrying out activities secretively and illegally.

Of course, agitators could resort to spectacles; they could work towards creating images that capture attention. Think of the jal satyagraha in Madhya Pradesh, and how the national media honed in on the story then, only to forget all about it once the spectacle was over.

Then again, even a spectacle offers no guarantee of coverage; the jal satyagraha in Kudankulam was hardly used by the media to raise questions it ought to have, as this recent Hoot storyshowed.

Barla’s exclusion from newspapers and newsreels also points to another factor: the thousands of activists and dissenters lodged in jails and the systemic ignoring of their cases by the media. Binayak Sen has often been at pains to explain that his case is just one among thousands in the country. Yet why is it that we never hear of Dayamani Barlas, Jeetan Marandis, Sudhir Dhawales, Anjali Sontakkes, or Sheetal Sathes in the same way as we heard of Sen?

Is it the media’s bias–against people from a lower caste-class background, against “people not like us”? For, the one thing common between all the names mentioned above is the fact that none of them comes from the middle class. They are from among the tribal or lower caste sections of society, and have/had been leading struggles against state excesses in various ways before being branded Maoists by the state and arrested.

Barla hasn’t been called a Maoist as yet–at least there’s no government propaganda in the media labeling her of leading a Maoist cell or indoctrinating the youth. But her case isn’t so different from the few mentioned above. And in ignoring her case, the media has once again shown itself to be part of the systematic disdain with which lower caste-class dissenters are treated.

 

Open letter to Arnab Goswami by Madhu Kishwar


 

Dear Arnab ji,

When you started your innings with Times Now by demanding that power wielders provide honest answers to the general public for their various acts of commission and omission, many of us applauded your public spiritedness.  “The Nation-is-angry-and-wants-an-answer” approach gave much-needed vent to citizens’ frustration at our political masters’ lack of accountability. Every today, once in a while, your head-on approach works well, as it did when you ably stonewalled the attempts of Congress leaders in giving a communal colour to the recent killings and mayhem in Assam. Being from Assam yourself, you were on surer ground.  But trouble arises when you become an instant expert on a new subject every night and want your rage to be supported and echoed by all your panelists with the same intensity and fury as yours.

Over the years, you have let the success of your program make you forget the necessary dividing line between journalist and crusader and converted your prime time ‘News Hour,’ into a Kangaroo Court. Your jingoistic nationalism mimics the aggressive onslaughts of preachers of Born-Again Christian sects on North American TV channels.  Within the one-hour duration of your Kangaroo court, you bully your guest panelists to participate in a summary trial loaded with self-righteous harangues, aimed not just at the targeted wrong doer but also at those who dare resist your requirement that the verdict against the targets of your ire be pronounced right then and there. Unfortunately, some of the younger anchors are also catching on this disease. Therefore, it needs to be controlled before it assumes epidemic proportions.

You made it fashionable to see every issue through a prism which allows only two colors to permeate– black and white. That prism enables the anchor to see himself as lily white knight in shining armor out to save India from its various real and imaginary enemies and ills and ensures that all those whose alleged misdeeds you expose or whose views you target come out pure black, pure evil. You become enraged if someone tries to introduce a degree of complexity to the discussion. The panelists are expected to simply come and lend further strength to the anchor’s delusion that the one hour of News Hour will rid India of all its ills.

Dear Arnab, it is time you get over the illusion that if you wrap yourself in the national flag, everyone will automatically accept the purity of your intentions and the workability of your prescriptions on every single issue. Plenty of people are becoming exasperated with such posturing and want news channels to provide them real news instead of organizing daily cock-fights in T.V. studios.

Your crusading zeal and the style of interrogation has the effect of dumbing down the issues you pick up for debate.  For example, you are very fond of picking up sensational cases of police tyranny and callousness.  But your panelists are not allowed to go beyond expressing pious rage at these routine misdemeanors of our lawless police.  Whenever you asked me to join any such discussion, I have pleaded with you to go beyond raging over random cases and start a serious discussion on police reforms to channel the energy and anger of concerned citizens to think creatively of the systemic changes required in order to make our police a people friendly institution designed to protect citizens’ rights rather than tyrannize, fleece and harass them.  But that requires a great deal of homework and serious thought.  You have no patience for it because it would not allow your daily dose of righteous rage.

It is clear you are still stuck in the Oxbridge style of debating you are likely to have learnt as a student, whereby one is allowed to speak either “for” or “against” the motion. A good “debater” is one who makes mince meat out of his opponent’s arguments, caricaturing the views of others while proving the absolute superiority of his own. Debating” of the kind, taught in our elite schools and colleges involves being one-up on your opponents, even if in the process you end up with pompous posturing.  Those  who remain stuck in this mode of interaction become incapable of engaging in a dialogue, leave alone promote genuine “samvad.

Samvad, as opposed to debating, requires that one gives equal (sam) opportunity to one’s opponent to present her viewpoint, (vad). In fact, in the Indian tradition of holding Shastratha there is well-respected code that you acquire the adhikar (moral right) to criticize or debate someone’s views or ideas only if you first demonstrate that you have understood their position in great depth and appreciate the complexities and nuances of the opponent’s argument.

Take the example of how you went ballistic when all four of us on your panel invited to the News Hour on July 11, 2012 surprised you by our refusal to join you in condemning and demanding strict punitive action against the Medical Superintendent who allegedly allowed a “sweeper” to play surgeon that fateful morning in the   Banarsi Das Government Hospital of Bulandshahar. In your high voltage zeal, you converted 41 year old Mohammad Ayub who has worked for 19 long years as a ward boy in the Operation Theatre of that hospital into a “sweeper” who had dared trespass into the hallowed territory reserved for MBBS ( and above) doctors. Do you know that in neighboring Bangladesh, which has a far superior primary health care system, illiterate and barely literate women and men have been trained as very effective paramedics? Suturing a wound is no rocket science. Nineteen years is a long time for an OT assistant to learn something as simple as putting 5 stitches to close a wound.

Even alleged murderers get a chance to defend themselves during the course of trial. But you thundered at us for suggesting that you pay heed to the explanations being offered by the representative of the hospital before reaching final conclusions. He tried in vain to tell you that on that early morning, 17 injured persons had been brought to the hospital following a bus accident. Of the 23 doctors, 7 were present in the hospital. The rest were either on leave or had left after doing their shift. The ward boy assisted in stitching up a wound because it was an emergency situation and all 17 injured persons had to be attended to at once. The Medical officer had sounded the emergency alarm which meant all the staff members in the hospital were to assemble and be assigned duties. But, instead of waiting for other doctors to reach the hospital, those on duty decided to make the best use of available resources. You were outraged that all 23 doctors were not there to attend to this emergency as if you have never heard of shift duty. It is likely that more than the permissible number were on leave that day. But that had to be established only after a proper enquiry. But you can’t afford to wait a day or two for facts to be established since you need a new issue and a new sacrificial victim every night.

Your fury and insistence on “instant justice” and punishment during the News Hour itself was based on a 20 second grainy footage taken by some local photographer covering the bus accident. Neither you nor your correspondent cared to find out whether the ward boy had done a good job or messed up the wound. Incidentally, neither the injured boy whose wound was stitched nor his parents complained of any wrong doing. If you had made up your mind to convict all of the hospital staff based on a 20 second borrowed footage, why did you bother to invite the concerned medical officer on your program?

We pleaded with you to contextualize the “offense”­­­—even  if a ward boy putting 5 stitches on a wound could be called an offense—by seeing it as a symptom of the pathetic state of our public hospitals with their perennial shortage of doctors and nurses. If today, the country is short of 6 lakh doctors and 1 million nurses, it points to decades of government mismanagement and neglect of the health sector. But for you that meant we too had become guilty of the “Chalta Hai” attitude which you are determined to beat out of Indians.

Do you know what has been the net result of your crusade of July 11, Arnab ji? If not, please read a report filed by Shone Shatheesh Babu in Tehelka of July 28, 2012.  Ayub, a low paid class IV employee and the only breadwinner of a 10 member family– including a wife, three daughters, ailing parents and an autistic brother– was suspended from his job to placate your fury. In addition to facing penury, he is devastated by the ignominy of being called a “sweeper” who dared play surgeon by a whole host of TV channels who took their cue from you. By contrast, the Chief Medical Supervisor has only been transferred to another hospital. In addition, the administration has “issued warning to every employee to only stick to his/her area of expertise.” This means in future no hospital staff will dare go beyond their officially assigned duty even in emergencies for fear of being punished. From henceforth a ward boy hired to pull stretchers will think a thousand times before daring to offer a glass of water to a thirsty patient. Likewise an attendant meant for changing bed linen will avoid letting the doctor or nurse know if he sees that a medicinal drip of a patient has stopped working, lest he be held guilty of overstepping his limits.

Serious Political Consequences of Prejudiced Attacks

Your narcissism and oversimplification of political issues has serious political consequences since it is not limited to raving and ranting against corruption and mismanagement in this or that hospital or thana.

Take for example the way you handle issues relating to Kashmir. To begin with, you think of Kashmir only when there is a major upsurge of anger on the streets, leading to violence or shut down. Without doing proper homework, without taking the trouble to go see for yourself or get the best of your reporters to feed you reliable reports, you invariably take at face value the information and slant provided to you by either your favorite politicians in the state or the Home Ministry in Delhi.

Having already made up your mind that any protest against the government or manifestation of discontent against mal-governance in the state is “Pakistan-inspired mischief” you invite Kashmiris to your program only to tell them what you think of them. Either you deliberately pick those who live up to the image of being stereotypical secessionists or if they don’t oblige, you try to push them into that camp.  Your energy goes into showing them up to be anti-national elements whose grievances or point of view does not deserve to be heard, leave alone heeded. Even when Kashmiris come out to protest the killings of innocent men or young kids by their own state police, you only pour contempt at them at having invited such killings.

Equally important, you and your tribe rarely, if ever, celebrate anything good the Kashmiris do. For example, you have never covered the great hospitality shown to Amarnath Yatris by Kashmiri Muslims, including when bad weather conditions lead to life threatening situations en route to the shrine. Recently you went ballistic over Syed Ali Shah Geelani opposing the creation of separate enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits but you deliberately paid no heed to the main point he was raising that Pandits should be assisted in returning to their original homes. He is opposed to creating ghettos for them and has repeatedly emphasized the need to for them to come reclaim their homes in old neighborhoods. Ask any of the Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley. They will tell you that any time, they feel threatened, they depend more on Geelani than on the state police for their safety. And he does live up to his promise. This is not to deny that at one time Geelani contributed to conditions that led to the mass exodus of Pandits from the Valley. But would you rather Geelani stay forever the same? Why not acknowledge and welcome his new avatar? If you are seriously concerned about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits why not have a calm and thoughtful discussion with them and key Kashmiri Muslims leaders, including Geelani, on steps that need to be taken for a dignified and safe return of Pandits to the Valley?

There are a lot of positive signals coming from the Valley. But our national media has no time for actions and incidents that convey a positive message. For example, during the recent Amarnath Yatra, a Youth leader Bashir Ahmed Mir from Kangan in Ganderbal district risked his own life to save a mother-son duo from Bihar.  A young boy named Rohit Kumar from Bihar had accidentally slipped into the Thajwas River at Sonmarg. In panic, his mother also jumped into the fast flowing stream to save her child. But neither knew how to swim. Mir, who happened to be nearby, at once jumped into the waters and saved the life of both mother and son. (See link: http://www.kashmirdispatch.com/more-news/16078676-political-leader-saves-mother-child-duo-of-amarnath-pilgrims-from-drowning.htm). Several friends from Kashmir wrote to me to say that “if a Kashmiri had picked up an argument or a petty fight with a yatri over some issue, Arnab Goswami would have raised hell for hours on end but such positive actions showing respect and care for Indian yatris and tourists do not receive even passing mention in his News Hour.”

The rough and rude treatment you give to senior and respected Kashmir leaders causes no less hurt than unjustified killings by the state police or paramilitary forces. Every time I have tried to present facts about Kashmir that you ignore you not only shout me down but also make it out as is I have joined in support of secessionists and Pak-supported terrorists.

You have no idea how much harm you cause in the process. Each such program leaves Kashmiris seething in rage. They are made to feel that they don’t have the basic democratic rights that people of other states have, and that they should neither protest police atrocities nor mal-governance and corruption of  the state , leave alone patently harmful policies adopted by the central government. Any manifestation of discontent on their part is invariably treated as an anti-national activity. In the process, you and your tribe weaken their faith in Indian democracy. As a result, what may have started off as a protest against the high handedness of the state government ends up turning into an anti-India protest. I have been repeatedly told in the Valley that Kashmiris would never be so estranged from Indian democracy if at least the Indian media learns had paid attention to their legitimate grievances.

—————–

The author is a spokesperson, Kashmir Committee

#Mangalore Mob attack- TV reporter’s version #VAW #Moralpolicing


The shameful news of Mangalore is very well known to you all. It is a good sign that eight assailants have been arrested in relation to this case. Along with the eight of the assailants the reporter Naveen Soorinje who reported the incident first has also been booked under section unlawful activities prevention act along with the eight assailants.  A friend in mail sent the account of the shameful event and him being framed in the case.
Here is what Naveen Soorinje has to say, A TRANSLATION….
At 6.45 in the evening on July 28, one of my news sources from Padil (in Mangalore) called me. This was all he told me: “Naveen, around 30 men have gathered near the Timber Yard in Padil Junction and I overheard them talking to someone trying to coax them to gather some more people. They were instructing someone to be prepared with their motorbikes. It looks like they are planning to attack the guest house in Padil. I overheard them saying something like Muslim boys and Hindu girls.”
I asked him to find out which organization the men belonged to. All he could gather was that they were from some Hindutva organization, though he could not find out the name of the exact organization they belonged to.
The immediate thought that crossed my mind was this: “Should I inform the police right away or should I not?” The dilemma was because there was no accurate information as to who belonging to which organization was to attack whom and where. I just had very rudimentary information on hand. If the members of the organization had called me themselves, I could have indeed informed the police instantly. As the news came from a my source, I thought I should inform the police only after confirming the news. Having come to this decision, I set out on my bike to Padil along with my cameraman.
In a while, my cameraman and I were outside the guest house/ home stay named Morning Mist located on the hill in Padil. None of the attackers who eventually turned up were present at the spot then.We stood there for five minutes unable to understand why anyone would plan to attack that particular home stay which is located half a kilometer away from the highway cutting through Padil. The home stay is surrounded by a tall compound wall on all four sides. There is only one gate and 60 meters from the gate is the home stay. I stood near the gate and watched. There was nothing happening inside that could conceivably provoke an attack. A girl was sitting outside on a chair and two boys in another corner of the bungalow were absorbed in their mobile games. They were not indulging in any activity which can be considered illegal. That is the reason why I did not inform the police at that point of time. If my information turned out to be wrong, it would be an unnecessary anxiety for the entire police department.
While I was making all these calculations in my mind, I saw a group of over 30 people marching towards the home stay. Out of curiosity I asked them in Tulu: “Do you know what the matter is? What is happening here?” Some boys in the group pointed to the girl sitting outside saying: “Look, there is the girl and there are the guys…” They ran towards them, all set for attack. The girl, who realized that the group was there to attack, ran inside the bungalow and tried to close the door unsuccessfully. The group of 30 managed to run to the door and open it before the girl could close it completely.
Only at that point was I completely aware of what was happening and my conscience was also awakened. I immediately called Ravish Nayak, Inspector, Mangalore (Rural) (+91-948085330) from my official number (+91-9972570044). That must have been around 7.15 p.m. Ravish Nayaka did not receive my call. On the other hand, the assault had just begun. The girls started running helterskelter failing to understand what was happening. The police personnel were not receiving the calls being made. I asked my friend Rajesh Rao of TV-9 to call the police and Ravish Nayak did not receive the call made by Rajesh Rao either.
While I was trying to get in touch with the police inspector, the cameraman ran behind the attackers and got started on his duty of recording the action. Till then only my cameraman and I were present at the spot but were soon joined by the cameraman of Sahaya TV, Sharan, and a photographer, Vinay Krishna. I was a mute witness to all that was happening there, with the guilt of not being able to do anything. More than half the attackers had consumed alcohol and were not in a position to listen to anything. I have been witness to violent incidents in my life, but never before violence of this scale and nature. Our cameraman was running wherever the group was attacking individuals. I was watching it and screaming and requesting, “Don’t hit the girls.” My request reached the camera sound recorder but did not reach the attackers.The boys who were attacked were pleading, “Please leave us. We are having a birthday party here. Please…” and were falling at the feet of the attackers. But nothing moved the attackers. If it were to be just this, probably I could have forgotten the incident. But I saw something much more terrible and shocking.
The girls who saw the boys being trashed were shocked at the sight and ran in all directions only to be followed by the attackers. Believe it or not, one of the girls jumped down from the first floor but was caught by nearly 20 attackers who began to pull out her clothes. They slapped her and pushed her to the wall. By then the girl in pink clothes managed to run away. When the attackers caught her, she was literally stripped naked. Leaving her with only one piece of cloth the assailants molested her. This sight sent a chill down my spine. Never in my life had I seen something as horrific as this, though I had heard of such things. These were the scenes which could not become visuals for the news. Only a portion of the incident was shot. Later on, all the boys and girls partying there were locked inside a room. All this happened in a matter of 15 minutes.
When the attackers were done with one round of their planned action, Inspector Ravish along with Police S.I. Manikantha Neelaswamy and others arrived at the spot. It appeared as though the police had a tie-up with the attackers. For over half an hour the police were in conversation with the attackers. I was utterly shocked by the scene of police conversing with the them. While they were conversing, one boy who was in the partying group tried to escape, but was caught by the police. When in the custody of the police, the attackers trashed him.
By then many media persons had arrived at the spot. My cameraman and I returned to the office and uplinked all the visuals to the Bangalore office. At 8:45 p.m. the news was aired. Within no time the visuals of our channel was used by national channels and thus the incident became national news. This angered city police Commissioner Seemanth Kumar who called my friend Rajesh Rao of TV-9 who then was with me. Rajesh put the call on loud speaker while Seemanth Kumar was saying: “Why should Naveen have reported the incident? I will teach him a lesson. He not only compared this incident to the Assam incident, but also said that Mangalore is being Talibanized. This time he will be taught a lesson. We will fix him in this case and none of his contacts at any level will be of any help.” It is crystal clear from the words of Seemanth Kumar that his concern was not the attack itself, but the fact of the attack being reported.
This morning I received yet another shock. The attacked boys and girls had given statements against me at the Mangalore Rural Police Station. I was sure that those statements were given under pressure. I guess the boys and girls had heard me requesting the assailants not to trash them. By evening my doubt was cleared. Speaking to the media the attacked boys and girls said: “We haven’t complained against the media. They have stood in our support.”
Mangalore (Rural) police have filed a case against me under the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The police have arrested eight of the assailants with the help of our visuals. The incident we have reported is shameful, not the visuals we have shown. The 28 July incident at Mangalore is neither a stray incident nor are such attacks in Mangalore a new phenomenon. Every week such incidents take place. Fundamentalists not only attack boys and girls mixing with the boys and girls of another religions but also take them to the police station. This incident would have taken place even if I had not shot it. Our recording has revealed the inhuman face of the fascists and has led to the arrest of eight attackers. No matter what is said and what cases are booked against me, I believe I have done my duty as a reporter and that is the only satisfaction to my hurt self.
It doesn’t matter to me that there are complaints filed against me and an FIR has been lodged. I will be happy if the attackers are punished because of the FIR lodged against me. If I am to be freed of these charges because of some pressure and if that is going to benefit the the attackers in any way, then I do not need such freedom. No matter what punishment is given to the attackers, it will never do justice to those girls who were assaulted right in front of my eyes. Yet they need to be punished.
There is more to write, but time does not permit. If any individual or association needs more information to fight the cause or if any investigation team needs more information, I can be contacted at any time of the day.
My address:
Naveen Soorinje
Reporter
Kasturi News 24
Mangalore
Mobile: +91-9972570044. +91-8971987904

IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Ethical Questions Raised as Molestation of Young Indian Girl is Captured on Camera


July 16, 2012

Ethical Questions Raised as Molestation of Young Indian Girl is Captured on Camera

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in India in calling for full disclosure of the circumstances in which a shocking incident of the public molestation of a young girl by a mob of more than twenty men was captured on video camera by a news channel reporter.

Video images of the incident, which occurred late evening on July 9 in the city of Guwahati in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, soon went viral on the web, provoking mass public outrage and questions over the role of the news reporter in the incident.

The Journalists’ Union of Assam (JUA), a constituent unit of the IFJ-affiliated Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) has reacted sharply to the incident, and called on all journalists to “adhere to the norms of journalistic conduct set by the Press Council of India and International Federation of Journalists”.

“Journalists are members of civil society and it is their duty to observe decency and not be mere spectators when they encounter any preventable crime”, said JUA President Geetartha Pathak. “Media persons should understand that human lives and honour are more important than increasing television ratings or circulation”.

The IFJ has learned that human rights groups in Assam state have analysed the entire video recording of the incident and concluded that a reporter with the NewsLive channel may have provoked and instigated the attack. There are reports that the video features some of the twenty strong mob striking a pose for the camera and at least one occasion when the camera focuses on the face of the victim and a microphone is thrust forward and inquiries are made about her name and identity. Perpetrators of the crime are also seen brushing the hair off the victim’s face so that her identity could be captured on camera.

The news channel management has defended the reporter’s conduct, on the grounds that his video footage has helped local police in identifying the perpetrators of the crime. The management claims that the reporter happened to be passing by the area at the time of the incident and reacted as any newsperson would, summoning the sole cameraman on duty at the news channel’s nearby office.

The reporter has since resigned from his job with the channel, which is owned by a powerful local politician and minister in the Assam state cabinet.

“We are shocked and distressed at this incident and extend our solidarity to the victim as she seeks to recover from the trauma”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific. “We call on all concerned journalists to join the public debate that arises from this incident”.

“The pervasive spread of new digital technologies and the rapid and largely unregulated growth of the visual media, make a full and authoritative restatement of the norms of journalistic conduct in situations involving crime and the violation of basic human rights, an absolute imperative”.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

A Guide to Anchoring and Reporting on News Channels


Citizens for Free and Responsible Media, Pakistan (CFRM-Pakistan) would like to share a basic checklist of what you, as media consumers, believe as the do’s and dont’s that news anchors and reporters are supposed to be familiar with, and that rest of the media consumers should also be aware of.

Good anchors/reporters:

  • Present news that is grounded in facts.
  • Make clear distinctions in their reporting and/or coverage between news and opinion.
  • Present opinion in their reporting and/or coverage that is grounded in various viewpoints based on at least two ‘experts.’
  • Stay neutral while moderating or presenting, even on issues they ardently believe in or oppose.
  • Are dispassionate in their reporting and use of language irrespective of the issue they are covering.
  • Always show respect to their subjects and guests.
  • Stay clear of stereotyping and judgement calls in their reporting and coverage.
  • Are mindful of the impact their coverage will have on their subjects and/or guests.
  • Take precautions to ensure that their report will not lead to any harm to their subjects and/or those associated with their subjects.

Bad anchors/reporters:

  • Present opinion that is passed off as fact or news.
  • Do not make clear distinctions in their reporting and/or coverage between news and opinion.
  • Present opinion in their reporting and/or coverage that is grounded in singular viewpoints, and/or based on one ‘expert.’
  • Take sides with guests or present their own viewpoint while they are moderating or presenting.
  • Allow their emotions to show in their use of language and physical expressions.
  • Disrespect their subjects/guests or certain groups in their reporting/coverage.
  • Use language and expressions that stereotypes certain groups.
  • Preach their own version of morality or ‘right and wrong’ in their presentation or reporting.
  • Are irresponsible in their coverage and are not mindful of the impact coverage will have their subjects and guests.
  • Do not take necessary precautions to ensure that their report/coverage will not lead to harm to their subjects and/or those associated with their subjects.

CFRM-Pakistan are activists, academics, lawyers, journalists and citizens from all walks of life—essentially media consumers—serving as an independent platform to voice public concerns about media freedom and responsibility in Pakistan.

 

In case of any query, please feel free to contact us at: c4frm@gmail.com 


Iran ‘detaining’ relatives of journalists: BBC


 The Iranian government has arrested relatives of Persian-language journalists working abroad for the BBC in a bid to silence them.

LONDON: The Iranian government has arrested relatives of Persian-language journalists working abroad for the BBC in a bid to silence them, the British Broadcasting Corporation said Friday.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson said the sister of a BBC Persian journalist was arrested last week and held in solitary confinement on unspecified charges at Evin Prison in Tehran, before being released on bail.

“Her treatment was utterly deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” Thompson wrote in a blog, adding that it was only the latest incident “in a campaign of bullying and harassment by the Iranian authorities”.

Human Rights Watch also raised concerns about the arrest. Its Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson warned it was “part of a wider campaign to harass Iranian journalists by putting pressure on them and their families”.

Tehran was sending a clear message “that the government’s long arm of repression can extend well beyond borders,” she said.

Foreign Office Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said he utterly condemned Iran’s “deplorable” tactics.

While it is not the first time the BBC has complained about Iranian harassment of its journalists, Thompson said the past few months had seen “increased levels of intimidation alongside disturbing new tactics.

“In recent months a number of relatives of members of BBC Persian staff have been detained for short periods of time by the Iranian authorities and urged to get their relatives in London to either stop working for the BBC, or to ‘cooperate’ with Iranian intelligence officials,” he said.

Relatives’ passports had been confiscated, preventing them leaving Iran, while BBC staff had been accused in the Iranian media of offences such as sexual assault, drug trafficking and converting from Islam to Christianity.

Thompson called on Tehran to repudiate the actions of its officials and urged governments and international bodies to help stop “this campaign of intimidation, persistent censorship and a disturbing abuse of power”.

BBC Persian, based in London, is a multimedia news and information service for Persian speakers in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and around the world.

Iran has frequently accused the BBC of fuelling the unrest that broke out following the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

An unnamed BBC staff member who spoke to Human Rights Watch said he and his colleagues had been exposed “to almost daily insults and personal attacks on various pro-government websites and blogs inside Iran”.

But the targeting of relatives “is really a red line for us, and we can’t stay silent”, the BBC worker said.

Foreign Office minister Burt said the Iranian authorities had a “shameful track record” of using family members to put pressure on Iranian lawyers, journalists and human rights activists.

“Such deplorable tactics illustrate again the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, and the desperation of the Iranian regime to silence any independent voices,” he said.

“The international community has repeatedly called on the Iranian authorities to cease harassment and intimidation of journalists and to prevent illegal jamming of broadcasts. We will continue to do so.”   Published: February 4, 2012 AFP

Mr. Minister, my name is Sunanda Deshapriya. I am not a terrorist.


5 Feb, 2012,  Sunanda Deshapriya      

Tamil rebels in a pickup truck in Killinochchi...

Image via Wikipedia

An Open Letter to Srilankan Minister Keheliya Rambukwella

Mr. Minister, I don’t know whether you have seen the film called ‘my name is Khan. In it, the main character played by popular actor Shah Rukh Khan Repeats the lines ‘My name is Khan. I am not a terrorist’ at different points in the film, in order to affirm his innocence. I too am about to tell you a similar story. ‘My name is Sunanda Deshapriya. I am not a terrorist’. This is my theme.

The story of ‘My name is Khan’ centres around the harassment a Muslim man with the name of Khan has to endure following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, USA. These attacks on the Twin Towers generated both fear and anger in the minds of the American people. Some extremist groups tried to unleash the feelings of anger against ordinary Muslim people living in the US. The film’s narrative is set against this background.

You are trying to do the same thing today. You are trying to use the fear and anger generated in the minds of the Sinhala people because of the brutality of the LTTE against those of us who have been advocating respect for human rights in Sri Lanka, including respect for the rights of the Tamil people of our country. When I say ‘you’ I do not only mean you as an individual, Mr. Minister. I include the entire gamut of people who do your bidding, including those media persons who sing your praises with no shame.

Do you know what baseless and venomous lies the media under your control has spread about me in the past few weeks? Have either you or your acolytes ever tried to behave in accordance with universally accepted media ethics and asked me for my comments on your revelations? Isn’t your talk about media ethics therefore to be understood as mere political hogwash?

In the film, Sameer, the young son of Khan and his wife Mandira is brutally killed by a gang of boys of his own age. This act of savagery became possible only because the feelings of anger and hatred that I described earlier had been let loose in their community. There can be nobody who watches this film whose heart and mind are not captivated by the tragedy of the child’s murder and the subsequent events. In the past weeks I too have read newspaper reports about your children. How disturbed you would have been after reading such stories? Can you imagine how many deaths my family, my children, have gone through as a result of the vicious campaign being carried out against me by you and the media that serves your will?

I fervently hope that one day you will be able to think about others as you think about yourself; this is the preaching of the Lord Buddha.

You talk over and over again about media ethics. You order news websites to be shut down because they are acting without respect for these ethics. You warn us that you will bring about a Code of Ethics for the Media that will be very special to Sri Lanka.

You are levelling charges against a group of journalists, accusing them of receiving money from the LTTE and carrying out a traitor’s agenda. You say that these media persons and journalists are now living abroad. You say they cannot be prosecuted because the Sri Lankan law does not permit it.

Mr. Minister, while your media people broadcast your words on this subject, they project images of me at various media freedom demonstrations on the screen behind them. With respect to which Code of Ethics are you displaying my photograph to illustrate baseless allegations? You say that it is because you cannot prosecute these persons who have obtained money from the LTTE under existing Sri Lankan law that you are not revealing their names. But your media institutions carry my photograph as an illustration to this statement. What is the intention behind this? Is it NOT to implicate me in your statement? Why is it that your acolytes have permission to do what you don’t dare to do? It must be that you think you do not need to be bound by any ethical standards because you are in power.

You advise the media about the use of language. Yet the media under your control continue to use the vilest forms of hate speech against me, shamelessly and without any proof to back up whatever they are saying. You reward these acolytes of yours with awards of media excellence.

Is it your theory and your practice that only your opponents should be held responsible for respecting media ethics? Is this how you devalue your own use of the media?

Wasn’t it your media that repeatedly broadcast the canard that at the session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September last year, the Maldivian President said that ‘Sunanda Deshapriya is a traitor to the nation’ even after it had been proved to be false and inaccurate? Where were the media ethics that you preach, then? The first ethical consideration of any journalist or media person is that of respect for the truth. Doesn’t the media under your control break this principle every day? Is the proverb ‘Practise what you preach’ not applicable to Ministers of this government?

Since a while ago I have publicly challenged your government to prove that I have received even one cent from the LTTE. The truth of the matter is that neither you nor your government nor anyone else holds on shred of evidence to prove this. If your government is capable of indicting members of the military and the Police for having accepted money from the LTTE, why should we believe that you are not able to do the same in the case of journalists who have received money from the LTTE? I accuse you of trying to unleash the same forces of extremism that Khan and Mandira faced on the murder of their son Sameer against me and all others working for the defence of human rights and media freedom in Sri Lanka today.

It is no secret that I hold an extremely critical view of the Rajapakse regime. As Media Minister, you are obliged to defend my right to hold those views. Instead, you are engaged in taking away that space from us and terrorizing us. Please remember that the right to hold dissenting views is one of ethical bases of media freedom.

On ITN, in the ‘Athulanthaya’ (Interior) programme, you said something ridiculous: That because you cannot take these charges before the law, lacking evidence, you are instead placing them before the people. What does this mean? Why must you take information that has no basis and therefore would not stand scrutiny in a court of law into the public arena? Doesn’t this show us that you are trying to build a hate campaign against me in the minds of the people?

In June 2009, award-winning journalist and Secretary of the Working Journalists’ Association, Poddala Jayantha, was abducted and brutally assaulted because of a similar hate campaign. You who are levelling the most absurd of charges against media persons fighting for media freedom today, what have you done to bring the perpetrators of the attack on Jayantha to justice, almost three years after the attack? Tell us if there is even one example where you and your government have brought any of those responsible for killing, beating and harassing journalists and media persons to justice.

As Media Minister, you are raising against unfounded allegations against us. But the allegations we raise against you as media freedom fighters are completely factual.

When cartoonist and media activist Prageeth Eknaligoda was abducted three years ago, it is you who confidently told us that he would return in two weeks time.