Watch the Jazeera report on YouTube
I was on Al Jazeera for like 5 seconds. I like the Jazeera, but for these Sri Lanka segments at least they tend to round up the usual suspects without too much balance. Frederica Jansz (of the Leader), Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Sanjana Hattotuwa of CPA, Amantha Perara of Internews and Perambara, and then, like, me. It’s fine, but I know all these people and they tend to come from one side of the issues. Perhaps the right side, but it’s not very interesting. This segment was on media freedom, and the questions they gave approached it from one particular angle. I think they should reframe the questions more openly and invite people from the other side.
People like Malinda Seneviratne, or perhaps (at a further extreme) Lackshman Hulugalle or others. I generally agree with the idea that media should be free, but I don’t think bemoaning the fact gets us too much closer to understanding or ameliorating the situ. That is, I’m less interested in aney pauw than aney how. It is entirely possible that the media was behaving contrary to national security, or that there are security concerns that require restricting media. I don’t believe this, but I think these are valid points. I don’t think the people on the ‘other side’ of this debate are irrational, and I think their voices should be heard.
Furthermore, this alliance of foreign media and local dissenters is dangerous and I think counter-productive. None of these internationals can bail us out of jail, and having them so blatantly on ‘our side’ makes the whole enterprise look foreign. This is an impression I try to avoid at all costs because I am very foreign. I don’t want freedom and constitutionality for those reasons, I just want a better life here. But the foreign association poops up the debate. It becomes personal more than substantive, and that’s a loss for everybody.
So, I think the Listening Post report above was biased and counterproductive. I think they basically contacted Paikiasothy, who referred Sanjana, who referred me. Which is fine, but it’s not really an accurate picture of what’s going on here. I don’t think it’s the point of this media to change stuff here, but I also think it’s counterproductive to that end as well. If they want to do a report like this I think they should engage a diversity of viewpoints, not the particular (probably minority) viewpoint that they agree with. Malinda recently criticized me hard in the state run Daily News but he called me before and I think we get along. He’s not very far to any extreme and I’m pretty sure he supports media freedom, but he is more on a different side. Giving people like him their five seconds may be a good place to start.