Thursday, December 16, 2010

A lesson on “stooge reporting” and “The Hindu” denying information to “Readers”

We are producing below the "Mid week note" that carries a dysection on media bias in "The Hindu" news paper in relevance to the Sri Lanka conflict. This is worth reading as it exposes how the media is engineering social perceptions in society. Mid week note is the editorial note in

Mid-week Note
A lesson on “stooge reporting” and “The Hindu” denying information to “Readers”
In India, during the SL war “The Hindu” news paper was very vocal against the LTTE and was providing plenty of coverage for the official version of the war that was waged. It was a period the emotions were charged and also divided and thus had less time for monitoring the role of media behaviour. Yet there was anxiety and concern in many circles over how the correspondent of “The Hindu” in Colombo filed news stories and of the editorial responsibility of the news paper. We now take this opportunity of an official visit by a US official to SL to project how “The Hindu” editorial consciously denies the public, the right for independent and unbiased information and adds to the misery of the displaced lives behind barbed wire.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees, Eric P. Schwartz, came to Sri Lanka on Sunday 26th July on an official visit and met with President Rajapaksa, Foreign Minister Bogollagama and some high government officials to discuss issues related to the IDP’s. He was later provided the opportunity to visit the IDP’s in one of the now famous “Menik farm” camps in Vavuniya, by the government of SL. He returned to Colombo from this visit and met with journalists to share what he saw and what he felt about the whole IDP situation. Thereafter, there were 03 news reports filed on July 28 on the visit and on what Eric P. Schwartz had to tell the media since his return from the IDP camp and his meetings with the SL President and the SL Foreign Minister. The 03 news reports were captioned as follows and it is interesting to note the interpretation(s) in “The Hindu” report.
01. “US concerned over Sri Lankan camps” By Krishan Francis (AP)
02. “Sri Lanka Must Ensure Swift Return of Tamil Refugees, U.S. Says” By Paul Tighe (Bloomberg)
03. “U.S. hails efforts for war displaced” by B. Muralidhar Reddy (The Hindu)
No concerns. No conditions. Only plain praise as “The Hindu” has understood the English of this US official and that is what “The Hindu” wants its readers to believe as truth. Reading through these 03 news reports, it is extremely clear how the AP correspondent and the Bloomberg correspondent has taken efforts to present more detailed information to the reader in relation to what Eric Schwartz the US official had to say within his diplomatic mandate, by using previously quoted views and news as well, for their news reports. Ethical and professional they seem in their job.
In presenting the news, the AP correspondent opens his report by saying, “The United States on Monday expressed concern over hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans displaced by war who are currently confined to military-run camps and pledged funds to help their resettlement.”
The Bloomberg correspondent’s opening sentence in his report reads as, “The U.S. said Sri Lanka must ensure the “prompt return” of about 280,000 Tamil refugees living in camps in the north since the defeat of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May ended a 26-year civil war.” But for “The Hindu” editorial there had been no such concerns expressed about the lives of the IDP’s in “military-run camps”. Therefore, this is how ‘The Hindu’ correspondent opened his news report. “Welcoming Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s unequivocal commitment to the resettlement process of the nearly 3 lakh war displaced, visiting Assistant Secretary, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration of the U.S. State Department Eric Schwartz, pledged U.S. support to the process.” He then adds further colour by saying Eric Schwartz is “the first high level official from the Obama Administration to visit Sri Lanka.”
According to the AP correspondent, the US Assistant Secretary had said the U.S was “deeply concerned about a range of issues where further progress is essential.” and had also said, “In particular the vast majority of displaced persons remain confined to camps”.
The Bloomberg correspondent confirms this US statement by saying, “The U.S. “remains deeply concerned” that the majority of displaced people are still in transit camps.”
And both news reports acknowledged that the US official was also concerned about international relief and aid organisations not having enough access to the IDP’s.
“The Hindu” has a totally different and contradictory news report for its readers, though from the same source. It says, “The Assistant Secretary describing his visit to the welfare villages in Vavuniya observed that the government had taken significant and substantial steps to improve the conditions and acknowledged the dedication of the officials who are involved in improving the lives of the displaced civilians.”
This “The Hindu” correspondent by now should know that the “Menik farm Zone 0 and Zone 01 camps” are maintained with displaced people who crossed over to government controlled areas much before the final phase of the brutal assault, are comparatively less affected and thus used for guided tours when dignitaries visit SL. Or, he should find out all those details for himself, if he is still not aware of them, before indulging in his profession as a journalist of worth and above stooging.
The concerns expressed by this US official Eric Schwartz was after seeing those in the Menik farm Zone 0 or 01 camp and that too had had a dampening impact on him. One should wonder what impact the other camps would have, if allowed access to.
But “The Hindu” editorial prefers not to hear or understand any of those “concerns” registered by Eric Schwartz. The editorial of “The Hindu” news paper can perhaps understand English, only if visiting officials speak good of their new found Sinhala King in Colombo.
“The Hindu” with this bias and unethical journalism is not only denying the “Reader” the right for information, but is also insulting the already insulted and displaced innocents in those camps. “The Hindu” with its “stooge reporting” is helping the SL government to hide the real situation of the IDP’s thus denying them the possibility of exposing the dire state of living in enclosed camps and having minimum human standards of living and speedy solutions.
Adding more salt to their already displaced and wounded souls, the news from the East used by “The Hindu”, in the same news report is only an official statement with no other source quoted and is specifically used as evidence to support the distorted IDP news they’ve fied. The unwritten argument is that all things related to the Tamil people are good and improving under the Rajapaksa government and so is the IDP situation.
“The Hindu” from the very beginning of the SL war, dropped all journalistic ethics and morals to back the Rajapaksa regime, perhaps in satisfying its own ego of sitting with the head of State for dinner and calling direct on the mobile phone. “The Hindu” seems to take pride in having such privileged relationships and wants to flaunt them publicly, killing the responsibility and duty of professional journalism in providing the “Reader” with right and unbiased information.
Most reports related to the SL war to date in “The Hindu” have always denied the right of the reader to unbiased information and with that the news paper has mortgaged its integrity as an independent journal.
Its time “The Hindu” editorial is told that publishing a news paper does not merely mean satisfying egos and petty interests of its Editor/Publisher, but is a social responsibility that has to be honoured. Its time “The Hindu” editorial is told that like all other valued professions, the profession of journalism is also bound by ethics and morals.
If none is telling them that, then the “Readers” must tell them that they have had enough of “stooge reporting”. Yet what is unfortunate is that the “Readers” who have many other sources of information apart from “The Hindu” that violate their rights and damages the lives of the IDP’s, have still not decided to leave “The Hindu” on the sellers rack and walk away.