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Sunday, 15 July 2018
Sunday, 15 July 2018 | Sri Lanka Watch
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Freedom of expression, arrogance and the Media minister PDF Print E-mail
We commemorated world Press Freedom day on Monday. Ironically, Sri Lanka was busy making arrangements; preparing speeches and workshops for a day exploited and harassed to the extreme on rest of the 364 days. That outspoken vociferous writer from Lanka e news Prageeth Eknaligoda has disappeared; 100 days have elapsed and not even a whiff of his whereabouts up to now. 

Authorities seem strangely reluctant to pursue the case. So we recall Lasantha Wickremathunga from the Leader publications; and if someone ask who has been charged for his murder, we as journalists stumble upon our words, for none has been even accused for the murder.

These are only few of notable brutalities etched in our brains but one cannot put aside the repugnant statistical data of 2009 to put Sri Lanka in the worthy rank of 162 for press freedom when 8 journalists were killed, 7 abducted, 13 arrested, while 17 media personages were physically assaulted with 72 threats and 9 police interrogations. These are just the data recorded.  They haven’t considered the many journalists who have fled the country in fear of life and the remaining ones who are petrified to the extent of writing only the artificially manufactured reports of good governance of the establishment. 

Don’t forget those attacks on news paper offices, local and private media stations and assaults on media men unleashed by our newly appointed deputy Minister for media.

So we witness Sri Lanka as a remarkable country to harbor hypocrisy and amnesia to an extent we ourselves, as proud citizens, find hard to believe. The ludicrous components in our establishment are yet to prove their far reached supreme consideration for media freedom. Behold the great appointment for media.

So we know Mervin Silva as the thuggish mocker of the parliament, many (or so I thought) hoped to see the back of him after this year’s elections while he unleashed his potential for playing the fool and displaying antics worthy for America’s funniest home videos. The slight difference is that it’s not in America but in Sri Lanka and not performed at home but at the parliament. Yes so we expected to see him pulped after the elections but behold, Mervin has topped the third in the list of preferential votes from Gampaha and I was again reminded of the ever remaining tag of the physiological condition existing in the Sri Lankan electorate. But Amnesia or not, it is a topic that should be discussed lengthily with a few physiatrists, one or two political analysts and maybe some sociologists.

Mervin Silva, that poser for vandalism and outright slander on Media Freedom; his existence solely residing on the many antics displayed to patronize the Television stations, and his many elegant remarks worthy for comedy shows and talk shows has unbelievably earned the respect of the electorate in Gampaha. Maybe the voters thought he was at least a laugh! It was only a few weeks back when Mervin Silva was downrightly accused for unleashing his terror potential on premises of the private Media station Sirasa TV.

So how did he end up with the post of Deputy Minister for Media?

He wanted to purify the city of Kalaniya a few days before the elections by closing down all the liquor bars and pubs of the area. He also celebrated his victory at the elections by announcing he wanted to commence on punya karmayas (good deeds). Mervin is a man of his words and his punya deeds were embarked by his sudden entrance at a cloth shop called Kandy and ordering to seal the doors. Considering Mervin’s track record, the shop owners were terrified but they didn’t know that he has merely come to pursue on punya deeds. Closing the doors, Mervin wanted the shoppers at the Kandy to buy anything they wanted under a sum of 700,000 LKR. Ecstatically delighted shoppers shopped to their hearts content but couldn’t reach the 700,000/= and managed to buy cloths at a little less than 400,000. So Mervin is a man after good deeds, but is this really the way to spend on punya karmayas? 

Anyone sane enough would consider twice before electing this man for parliament. Pardon me; Gampaha electorate is not to be mortified.  But by some other uncanny chance even if he was elected to parliament, who in his correct mind would assign him to the post of deputy media minister? Considering all the eccentricities towards media people and private television stations cherished by Mervin Silva, why had the man been thrust with the Media post?

I read one of the review articles stating this oddity as President’s way to reform Mervin. To make myself clear, this is the trick of the old school master days when the teacher would appoint the naughtiest child of the class as the monitor. The naughty child is strategically reformed by the sense of leadership and responsibility thrust to him! Mervin is the naughty child and President is that shrewd school master!

Well, considering the many strange dealings we had witnessed lately this could be a logical explanation and maybe quite a commendable experiment. But an experiment at this stage where Mervin is forced for rehabilitation is seriously putting to stake our already crippled media and press territory. 

I find this a more menacing and an ominous development. Mervin might do a better task than any of the former media ministers; I do not know and we are still too early to predict so. But the indication of Mervin Silva’s appointment brings out to light the head of state’s mockery of the situation at hand. A man accused for outrageous media duplicity is been given the media post? It gives a bad taste in mouth and quite well makes a mockery of the media and press attacks not done by Mervin Silva alone but by other sources as well.

It is a move of arrogance and dominance; a move to wound and put to test the pleadings of the media. It is a move of recommendation and approval of all the mutiny carried out against the media and press freedom of the country. In other words it symbolizes the ever existing infiltration and control over the media and the prohibition of press freedom and the right to voice our own thoughts. The sardonic appointment is yet another indication of the country’s ever deterioration freedom for independent media.

We must take to consideration the fact that when we celebrate the world press freedom day, it is not merely symbolic keep sake to make outstanding speeches and tributes to our slain journalists, but to help amend the country’s indulgence to matters such as media freedom. Nay, it is not a trivial matter as most out there thinks, but a necessity of a well rounded, democratic and civilized country. The head of governance must consider this at the top of his priority list to reimburse on the mandate given to him by the people of this country.

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