Sunday, March 09, 2014

Tales from the Grave

Another grave site has been discovered, this time in Mullaitivu. The GoSL blames the LTTE. 

We do not have much to go on, but an analysis of the reporting of the story tells us quite a lot. To begin with this is a major story, especially a month ahead of the UNHRC summit in Geneva.

The news of the discovery emerged on Twitter on the 28th of February (Friday). When I first saw this I was uncertain as to its veracity and searched around but there was nothing on the web.

Within a few hours however, it had been picked up by the news wires and full stories were being put out. It could have made the Saturday morning papers here, but did not.

Now Sunday is the day on which newspapers in Sri Lanka have the greatest circulation. It is the day on which people have some time to relax and look through the advertisements, to buy or sell a car, a house or even find a prospective partner for an unmarried relative in the matrimonial columns. The perfect day on which to carry a major new story.

If splashed across the front page, this story could have sold a few thousand copies more of whatever paper carried it. Once upon a time, when the newspaper was a major source of news, some would have even done a special early edition, just to carry this piece, preferably with some special insights, pictures, interviews or something that would differentiate a particular paper's reportage from that of its competitors.

We have a number of different newspapers, the variety is seen as a sign of a vibrant free press. 

Yet from the English press there was complete silence. (I can only comment on the English press since these are the only ones that I read).

On Monday, once the news had spread and was impossible to conceal, the Daily News ran a headline story blaming the LTTE. Only once the state owned daily broke the story did the other 'independent' press carry the story. The largest circulating English daily, the Daily Mirror rather timidly carried an AFP report on page four of its Tuesday edition. Not even its own story, something picked off the newswire that any overseas paper might carry. No local insight or analysis.

Since then, the rest of the press have mostly toed the official line, putting out little boxed stories echoing whatever comes out from the state channels.

Examining the GoSL reaction to the story is also useful. If we assume, and it may certainly be true, that the LTTE were responsible for this, then the GoSL reaction to this is muted and completely out of character.

Facing the challenge in Geneva, this discovery should have been a godsend. What better opportunity to deflect the arguments of our opponents? Why do we need to talk of old atrocities when evidence of new ones is just emerging? The ministries responsible for this are usually masters of the dark arts, why have they failed to exploit this? Where are the expensive advisers, Thompson Advisory Group? Are the people in charge asleep at the wheel?

We do not know, but the questions need to be asked. 


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