Our Media Needs Security

Not this guy, obviously.

The way Ministers roll tells you that the streets are not safe. At some point Sri Lankan media has to stop issuing press releases and simply defend themselves. We have to pool our money and hire security for people that we know are at risk. These high risk targets have to travel and live with private security. They have to learn self-defense. Because at this point it’s not about changing our rotten institutions. Something has to be done immediately or these people will simply be shot dead in the streets. I was driving around and I had a couple ideas. They’re all stupid and I can’t execute any of them, but what the hell.

Something good has to grow from the dirt Lasantha Wickrematunga is now buried in. There’s a window where people care, and it’s passing. So I dunno. I was driving around and thinking. There was a protest today but I didn’t go, cause it’s a working day. I also don’t necessarily understand what protests do anymore, and I don’t generally support blocking traffic while people are trying to work. Not to say. I also read the various press releases and I don’t know what that does either. Because institutional change takes years, and I don’t know who’s going to die tomorrow.

At some point journalists may have to just learn how to defend themselves, and for us to huddle around each other for some safety. Because they (we?) aren’t going to get it from our corrupted institutions. The most obvious thing is for journalists to carry guns, but barring that

Keep A Whitelist

Someone connected has a blacklist, and they’re checking people off. Keith Noyahr, Namal Perera, Lasantha Wickrematunga, everyone is being touched. Note that the former two survived, as did the editor of Sirasa’s online venture. We need to keep a list of people that are risk and update the threat levels on them so they can be given protection. Alternately, the writings of people on that list would make for an interesting website.

Man A Hotline For Help

Or a phone tree or whatever. Just some number you can call and say ‘I’m being followed’ and get some immediate security and safehouse or whatever.

There were signs of all of these attacks. Sirasa (MTV) reported a suspicious van to the police, though nothing was done. Lasantha knew he was being followed (as reported per TIME). I know other journalists personally who have been followed, and received warnings on their doorstop. You can complain to the police, but the police don’t do shit (besides block the roads for the people the same people that curse the media). The institutions and the state that is supposed to protect us doesn’t. It may actually be trying to hurt us. So for now we have to help each other.

If there’s a community hotline we’d at least know in advance when someone is in danger. That means they can swap their car, move to some safe house for a while, whatever. Alternately, as a community media could allocate private security to them. Every journalist or writer or whatever should be able to press 1 on their speed-dial and get some immediate help.

Hire Private Security

Low level government flunkies roll with bodyguards and convoys, blocking traffic as they go. You average journo rides with the windows down cause he’s got no A/C. If they have a car. You can literally just find out where they live, where they work, kill them en-route and drive away. The Rupavahini people who thrashed Mervyn Silva got stabbed on the bus. There are certain high risk targets who will continue to live this way until they die because they don’t have the money for private security. And because they can’t simply take money from the people like the government. At some point, if we don’t want these people to die, we have to raise money and hire security for them.

I suppose the security could be cycled based on threat levels, but if certain people aren’t protected, they can and will get shot in the streets.

Learn Self Defense

If any journalist wants it, I think it may be wise to get training in basic self-defense, evasive driving and maybe small arms. When they killed Lasantha they blocked his car and shot him in the head. If he was trained to know that he was being followed, to drive evasively away, or to react in some disciplined fashion maybe he could have protected himself. I mean, if he had a gun… but in a country where Mervyn Silva has a permit I don’t think that’s likely.

At some point journalists are either going to have to quit or be prepared to fight for their lives. It’s probably not ultimately that helpful, but some training as to what to do when you’re being abducted or killed might buy you a few minutes more on your feet.

Again, these all ideas are all probably silly and I can barely implement my own breakfast. Actually, I can’t even do that. But at some point I think we may have to stop treating this as a generally ‘bad thing’ and more as a clear and present security risk to human lives. To people we know, to people I know. I don’t think to me, but what the fuck, who knows. Changing these institutions and changing the political process is important, but at some point we have to simply defend the lives of the few people we have left.

This also means that at some point we have to meet, raise money, and hire some security for the people who are at risk of dying this year. This government is not upholding our constitutional write to speech or our human right to life. So it’s up to us to defend ourselves. The people talking shit about the media roll 20 deep with about three cars and roadblocks. At some point we have to hire some security ourselves. And seeing as we’re all broke, this is something we have to do together.

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2009-01-09 19:56:49

I read this again and it’s hysterical and probably won’t come to anything. Don’t think the ideas are bad per se, but actioning them requires organization and money which don’t much exist.

I’ve just been trying to think of ways out (rather than details on how fucked we are) and this is, uh, all I got

2009-01-10 05:32:53

The ideas seem fairly resonable though will take some organisation to implement and funding to implement. Defence/war zone training for journalists are in the news during the gulf war and I’m sure that such training progs could be organised.

A minor technical addition: a fund to buy body armour to people under a high threat level. Won’t save people getting shot in the head but its a start. Harsha International might still be making body armour. Don’t know what the deal is about civilians buying their product. (Note: I am not affiliated with Harsha International or such products in any way).

2009-01-09 20:40:14

Indie, I’ve been reading your blog on and off for the past few months, and I feel sad about all that’s happened recently. I can feel your suffering.

Your ideas can work, I think. They might not bring about instant change, but they have some potential. For example, your ideas about the hotline thing and private security can work. You can easily implement these ideas if you know the right kind of people: people who are aware and motivated, care deeply about society, and can spare some of their precious time to serve a noble cause. The whole-hearted support of these people rather than surplus money is what you need to turn your ideas into reality. A group of enthusiastic senior citizens can easily pitch in to man/woman hotline centers and connect the men in distress to the nearest source of relief. And most citizens can learn to be vigilant of their surroundings.

People create societies, and if they become aware about their own welfare and security, they can gradually overhaul the entire system that you’re currently so despondent about. So start by becoming aware and vigilant yourself; start small and try to bring like-minded people in your fold. You seem to be a very socially active fellow. You can easily mobilize support from the people. Of course, all this will require a lot of time and and hands on effort. Perhaps a blog can’t reach the right people at the right time. You might have to get into the field in person. And this raises the question: Do you have enough time at hand and the requisite energy and patience?

I guess you can bring about a little bit of change. You’re a brave guy. Why, even I can bring about change in people, though I’m rather reserved and prefer to watch from the sidelines than immediately jump into the fray. You just need to say a few good words and act bravely.

2009-01-09 21:19:35

At a hopeless time like this, even reading this brings a bit of hope..

2009-01-09 23:24:48

After Lasantha, hope for preserving my own or lives of other people in the media has just withered down to a cynical blob of disgust.. :| Sigh.

2009-01-10 04:05:47

is violence or use of force an option for self-defense esp IF war is not an option for peace?

2009-01-10 10:37:33

I think the point is to prevent violence by making it costly for all involved. Right now it’s kinda asymmetrical.

Do I think having security, even armed is ethical? Yes. Do I think violence in direct and immediate self-defense is justified? Er, deeply regrettable, but yes.

2009-01-10 13:56:00

Well that’s essentially the argument for war, isn’t it? Violence becomes a far more sensible option when it’s your own life under threat.

2009-01-10 20:11:03

Errrm – there is a better way to fix Sri Lanka.

Run for office and make a change.

Yes, we can.

2009-01-11 22:42:11

JJ – then you’d only be sucked into this mindless political mulch. I doubt there’s really any gracious politics at all these days.

The media can take things into their own hands…have cell phones/ cams out to film perpatrators and then hire private detectives to uncover the truth? :/ I actually heard that MTV had some footage of the fire and the people involved, and then changed the tune by saying they didnt have any blah…

2009-01-14 00:42:34

Somebody beat you to the idea.
Check http://www.lankaenews.com/Sinhala/news.php?id=7676
The author Victor Ivan–Ravaya editor.
It looks like there are two people who is in charge of Jouranalist security in Sri Lanka (salary 765 Euros for month!)
then there is a security fund that is available to journalist(almost 200 grand euro) .For Renting safe houses etc…

On a another related news check how Lasantha blackmailed Ruaf Hakeem .
Things are not simple black and white.

2009-01-14 13:09:14


cool, heard about that recently. 765 Euros per month is cheap for security, I asked around. Apparently some peeps are like that much per day.

2009-01-14 23:41:35

I read half of that and absorbed no useful information. These old guys clear their throat for hours reminiscing about people they knew. I honestly have no idea what he’s saying.

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