The old adage, “justice must not only be done, but seen to be done” has certainly not occurred in the above instance where a limited number lap tops and interest free loans were distributed amongst a few favorite journalists of the Govt.’s own choosing. For a government to go brazenly offering handouts is unprecedented. One cannot fault poor journalists who will take any concession they can get, alcohol being their weakest indulgence, where they can be bought, their stories compromised and they become prostituted.
It was therefore not in order for the Opposition Leader to advise that Editors should determine how these funds would be distributed amongst their staff. They will also use their own prejudices and unfair practices will continue. I believe the onus is on the employer to properly remunerate and provide tools of the trade and not for the government to influence what is written by such low ball tactics. RW should merely have asked them to desist or give ALL journalists who have been accredited to a media group for say 5 years the same concession, so that it could not be construed that certain people are being propositioned by gifts to report favorably, merely rewarding dogged perseverance in the profession.
The Fourth Estate, the Media have a proud tradition as the conscience of the Nation. This has seen better days, and this needs to resurface and take hold. These silly tactics are attempts at preventing a resurgence of integrity and ethics, something desperately needed in Sri Lanka today.
The media is the lone voice available to the people to express contrarian views and this is hugely compromised by the politicization of the media, and government largess that subsidizes media and helps continuance only if their point of view is expressed. When one loses credibility these additional acts adding fuel to the fire damage the credibility of the fourth estate in Sri Lanka.
Is there a fourth estate worth preserving? Possibly not at present, due to the huge pressure not just on media owners, but more so with journalists, who simply work to survive in a tough environment. They can easily be influenced to sell their soul. I do not know if under these circumstances one can attract people of the right caliber to take up this profession, as the precedent is not in keeping with expected norms, and unlike in India we do not have a culture of pride in the independence of the Media from interference. We then only have new recruits into media to work with and it is the duty of those who assist in training new recruits to enlighten them on what journalism is and the role it plays in civil society to protect the vulnerable.