Sri Lanka rewards loyal Sinhala journalist

[TamilNet, Friday, 01 August 1997, 23:59 GMT]
After years of supporting the Sri Lankan government's propaganda by using his position as a reporter for the Reuters News agency, Mr. Mohan Samarasinghe has been formally employed by the Colombo regime. Mr. Samarasinghe is to join the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission in Canada.

A few weeks ago, the Sri Lankan state media said that five 'communication experts' were being appointed to Sri Lankan missions as 'Counsellor (Information)'. Apart from Canada, the other capitals to receive propaganda activists are London, Ottawa, Stockholm, New Delhi and Bangkok.

According to the state run Daily News, these officers "will engage in projecting a positive image of Sri Lanka from their respective stations and endeavour to correct any misperceptions entertained in some quarters in these countries".

In practice, one of the tasks this will entail is playing down the Sri Lanka's atrocious human rights record. Despite a successful public relations exercise in 1995 and an orchestrated campaign to dupe the human rights organisations by setting up official human rights bodies, the Sinhalese government's human rights record is causing increasing international concern.

Another item on the propagandists' task list is to, promote the government's view of the war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. For the past two years, the Sri Lankans have been predicting that the end of the war was only months away. The international community's initial belief in these claims has given way to skepticism, as the Tigers have scored several military victories against the Sri Lankans.

The Sri Lankan government's ban on the press has helped to conceal the horrors it is inflicting on the Tamil people, and the government's initial claim that the censorship was needed for 'tactical reasons' has worn thin, with many foreign governments and NGOs urging the lifting of the blackout.

Mr. Samarasinghe has worked actively over the past few years to promote the Sri Lankan government's image through his position as a correspondent with the Reuters news Agency. By taking Sri Lankan government claims and reporting these without fail, while ignoring the LTTE's statements, Mr. Samarasinghe did his best to ensure that the world media had access only to the Sri Lankan government's version of events in the reports he filed for Reuters.

As his role was being mirrored by Sinhalese journalists with the other major agencies operating out of Colombo, he was quite successful in manipulating the coverage of events on the island.

 

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