The “Sunday Times” Political Editor
It seemed ironic that it should come in the wake of the jolt the mainstream media in the United States received after Republican Donald Trump won the November presidential elections. Both the electronic and the print media, almost altogether, spoke of a victory for rival Hillary Rodham Clinton. Most were very supportive of her. They have come in for a lot of flak now and their shares have dipped in the stock markets. They are now re-thinking and re-building the journalistic enterprise.
The exception perhaps was the social media though many were accused of having scant regard for facts. They were accused of viral disinformation because of the false and misleading reports. Kyle Pope of the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism calls it the antithesis of the Watergate, the scandal of the break-in at the Democratic Party’s National Headquarters in 1972. Those media exposures by the Washington Post forced the then Republican President Richard Nixon out of office. It is the Columbia University that confers the Pulitzer Prize, one of the highest and prestigious in US journalism.
Added to that is the worry for successive administrations in the United States over the ISIS. At present US advisors are helping the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga forces to oust the ISIS who are still in control of the Iraqi town of Mosul. In Syria, the Government forces, supported by Russia, are fighting the ISIS in the heavily war torn town of Aleppo. Sights of misery and human suffering are a daily occurrence shown on television.
Strange enough, with no elections after the presidential and parliamentary polls in 2015, the worries for the Government still seem to be about the media and the fear of the influence of ISIS growing in Sri Lanka. The Government is worried that it will not be able to win the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, if the media are “not disciplined.”
Hence, several ministers were of the view that measures would have to be adopted from now. That is not only for the mainstream electronic and print media, but also for the social media. The matter figured prominently at Tuesday’s weekly meeting of ministers at Committee Room 3 in the parliament complex.
Strange but true, there was only one minister who opposed any measures against the media. That was Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. He was perhaps conscious that it was he who would have to answer questions in world capitals about the Government’s about turn in just two years.
During the elections, speakers at different political rallies spoke of media suppression, murders, abduction in white vans and other forms of harassment. They pledged they would not only deal with those responsible but also ensure those dastardly acts were a thing of the past. Now, how would he justify what may turn out to be a possible move to control the media.
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