Media monitoring


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A presentation based on media monitoring of MSM coverage of key issues related to Sri Lanka's war and peace.

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Media monitoring

  1. 1. Media behaviour in Sri Lanka Sanjana Hattotuwa Senior Researcher, CPA Editor, Groundviews
  2. 2. Media consumption During war
  3. 3. Choice? • Increase in number of private FM and TV channels • Narrowing range of programming. No PSM. Mostly commercial. • Little or no regional / provincial emphases • Little or no sustainable local media
  4. 4. Community media Compelling examples of community radio: … Compelling examples of professional provincial journalism: …
  5. 5. Skewed reporting From during the war
  6. 6. Legal impediments Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited Law No 28 of 1973 Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Act No 37 of 1966 (SLBC Act) Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Act No 6 of 1982 Sri Lanka Press Council Law No 5 of 1973 Official Secrets Act No 32 of 1955 Public Security Ordinance No 25 of 1947 Prevention of Terrorism Act No 48 of 1979 (PTA)
  7. 7. Advocacy and training Free Media Movement (FMM) Editors Guild of Sri Lanka The Newspaper (Publishers) Society Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU) Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum Sri Lanka Press Institute Sri Lanka College of Journalism
  8. 8. Challenges FMM, SLWJA, FMETU mired in corruption and controversy. Internal splinter groups. No traction. Editors Guild splintered. PCC largely ineffective. SLPI and SLCJ are good ideas, but no human resources. Standards are questionable.
  9. 9. Challenges Advocacy anchored to a few individuals. No real movement amongst journalists, who are themselves divided. FOE, media freedom advocacy are in opposition to national security. No new media based or English language advocacy capacity. Campaigns largely limited to street demonstrations, occasional Sinhala press releases (that few media now carry)
  10. 10. Dinosaurs and demons Rajapakse regime Owners and editors are hugely resistant to change and riven by bias and parochialism No FOE. No RTI. High self-censorship. Little professionalism. No idea what to report post- war.
  11. 11. Prabhakaran’s death Sinhala media was triumphalist and mixed opinion with reporting. Tamil media much less so, choosing instead to quote government sources on Prabhakaran’s killing. English print media in between these two extremes, save for Lake House papers.
  12. 12. Prabhakaran’s death Sinhala media Sinhala media portrayed it as a victory for Sinhalese, praised armed forces, deified President, Defence Secretary and key army personnel. Kept referring to acts of terrorism by LTTE as justification for the killing of Prabhakaran.
  13. 13. UTHR (Jaffna) media monitoring The following story from the Army carried in the Daily Mirror of 19th May (slightly edited) is the first of the constantly changing official versions of what happened on the 18th morning: “A group of nearly 100 LTTE cadres believed to include LTTE leader Prabhakaran and senior leaders including intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Soosai infiltrated the army’s forward defence line and reportedly attacked the ambulance. The driver and two critically injured soldiers however managed to escape. Later, some of the LTTE leaders reportedly got into the ambulance and attempted to escape through Puthukudiyirruppu. The Special Forces attacked the ambulance which caught fire. A fierce gun battle lasting over an hour resulted in more than 250 bodies of LTTE cadres lying scattered. The Defence Establishment believed that all top LTTE leaders, including Prabhakaran, were killed during the abortive escape attempt on the 18th morning.”
  14. 14. UTHR (Jaffna) media monitoring “The story about the leaders trying to escape in an ambulance was dropped the next day. The defence columns of the following Sunday carried the uniform version, that Pulidevan and Nadesan who attempted to surrender, died allegedly in the fighting described above. This clumsy attempt at lying creates the suspicion that many of the cadres killed that morning were massacred like those with Nadesan and Pulidevan.”
  15. 15. Prabhakaran’s death Tamil media Quotes government sources over killing, but also quotes Indian and international sources that Prabhakaran is still alive. More attention on civilian deaths. The language used to refer to / describe Prabhakaran suggest he was a freedom fighter.
  16. 16. Prabhakaran’s death English media Largely the same as Sinhala media save for Daily Mirror, which was the most balanced in its coverage.
  17. 17. Different foci Sinhala and English media stressed that the war was a “humanitarian mission”, or that it was a “rescue operation” to free civilians. Tamil media was more focussed on humanitarian fall out of war, and consistently quoted or pointed to international media reports in this regard.
  18. 18. Photos “In dealing with social issues of a particularly shocking or emotionally painful nature – such as atrocity, violence, drug abuse, brutality, sadism, sexual salacity and obscenity – the press should take special care to present facts, opinions, photographs and graphics with due sensitivity and discretion, subject to its duty to publish in the public interest.” - Editors Guild Code of Ethics
  19. 19. Photos
  20. 20. Sources Overwhelming dependence of Sinhala and English media on official government information sources (e.g. Military spokesman, MCNS) Tamil media source more from international reports, and frame local sources with plugs to, for example, international wire reports.
  21. 21. Cartoons
  22. 22. Broadcast media Key refrains in Sinhala coverage Kuriru - brutal, referring to acts conducted by Prabhakaran Gaathakaya - slayer / killer Amaanushakaya - inhumane Uththamachaarya - saluting war heroes Abhiyogaya dinagattha - Overcome challenge of terrorism Vijayakrahanaya - victory for entire nation (with nation often portrayed as a Sinhala nation)
  23. 23. Key aspects of TV broadcasts Length of news bulletins was over one hour. Usually a shade under 30 minutes. Visuals were anchored around: Animated timeline of key moments leading up to Prabhakaran’s death LTTE attack on Dalada Maligawa, civilians and Kattankudy Muslims Visuals that showed that Prabhakaran did not have cyanide capsule around his neck Visuals that suggested Prabhakaran lived a life of luxury in seclusion, betraying the cause of the LTTE.
  24. 24. Erased and edited No coverage on fate of IDPs, civilians who escaped the fighting, civilian casualties, humanitarian fall out and enduring concerns, human rights abuses. Language used to repeatedly make the point that Prabhakaran was a notorious criminal, brutal murderer, killer, liar, cheat etc.
  25. 25. Flooding @ Menik Camp
  26. 26. Flooding @ Menik Camp Groundviews broke story at 11.02pm on 14th August, when it was still raining hard. Used Twitter for on the ground eye-witness perspective. First time CJ site has broken a major news story. First time Twitter used as a source. First photos, originally from mobile phone and digitally up-scaled, go up at 8.16pm the next day. Photos and story picked up by New York Times and BBC.
  27. 27. Flooding @ Menik Until 16th August, local print, broadcast and web media did not covering this story. Only the Daily Mirror republished a BBC news story. No Government newspaper or TV station even referred to the dire situation in Menik Camp until 16th August.
  28. 28. Flooding @ Menik 16th August (Sunday) 48 hours after the devastating floods, Groundviews did not get even a cursory report of the flooding in Menik Camp via any of the SMS news services it is subscribed to, including JNW and Daily Mirror. Only Uthayan on Saturday carried a news story on the situation in Tamil. Amongst the leading English Sunday newspapers, the Sunday Observer, The Sunday Island and The Nation web versions do not report the crisis in Menik Camp. The Sunday Times has a short front page article. Only the Sunday Leader and Lakbima News headline the situation. The Sunday Leader quotes Jeevan Thiyagarajah, Head of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies.
  29. 29. Flooding @ Menik Lakbima News notes in IDPs at drowning point notes that “Minister of Resettlement, Rishard Badhiyudeen, when contacted by this newspaper over the phone for a comment, asked us to “call back in 15 minutes”. But the minister remained “un-reachable” since”. News over KPs arrest and Police brutality dominate Sinhala newspaper coverage on Sunday. No mention of the dire conditions in Menik Camp whatsoever.
  30. 30. 2 weeks after...
  31. 31. Tissa’s verdict Very few from media advocacy community at court on judgement day (31st August) Guilty on three counts, 20 years rigorous imprisonment. Unprecedented severity. Largely unexpected in light of GSP+ extension debates and context
  32. 32. Tissa’s verdict 1st September news Island and Daily Mirror go with lead stories Sudaroli, Virakesari, Thinnakaran, Thinnakkural all lead stories Dinamina and Divaina lead stories. Dinamina follows story with anti-NGO coverage. Lakbima and Lankadeepa front page stories
  33. 33. Tissa’s verdict 1st September Island coverage
  34. 34. The verdict’s impact (Excerpt from Groundviews) Salient points of Tissa’s case point to a larger and more chilling deterioration of media freedom in Sri Lanka under the Rajapakse administration. The charges, the length of time he was held without any charge and the manner in which he was treated while imprisoned are all carefully engineered to generate fear and anxiety amongst independent journalists and media. In this, the Rajapakse regime has been tremendously successful. Most journalists today are fearful of even writing about Tissa’s case, much less writing publicly against his unjust predicament or agitating for his quick release.
  35. 35. Future trends 1. Increasing media consumption post-war, especially in the North and East 2. Fragmentation of audiences within and between print, broadcast and online 3. Participatory media models 4.Younger consumers 5. Impact of broadband and mobiles will be significant 6. More censorship and intolerance of dissent
  36. 36. Mobiles vs. broadcast
  37. 37. Post-war media control Technically more difficult to hide censorship, especially with new media Physical threats can still contain and curtail Investigative journalism shifting to web, also means that one should expect more online censorship and filtering (Iran and China are close friends)
  38. 38. Groundviews reach Over 2,000 read it daily on average Over 530 Facebook fans, reaching ~53,000 persons (calculated at avg. 100 friends per fan) Over 220 follow tweets Over 9,000 get email updates at least fortnightly
  39. 39. Groundviews reach
  40. 40. New ideas & new media
  41. 41. 2008 Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility Section 10.3 of the revised Declaration deals with the Internet and notes that, “One of the most significant developments in the last ten years has been the growth of the Internet, which has resulted in the democratization of media and encouraged the emergence of non professional journalists in the form of bloggers etc. We acknowledge the contribution of bloggers towards the promotion of free speech and democratic media. We also recognize that bloggers are as susceptible to controls by the state, misuse of their work as traditional print and broadcast media. We take this opportunity to commit our support to responsible bloggers and other new media practitioners, and hope to work with them in solidarity towards establishing a convergent media which is strong and independent.”
  42. 42. 2008 Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility Section 10.4 goes on to note that, “We specifically call on the government to recognize the internet as an important space for deliberative democracy, and extend to it, all such policies as would enhance the space of free speech on the Internet, and to avoid all policies of banning, blocking, or censoring websites without reasonable grounds. There is now a convergence between the traditional print media and the internet, with a number of newspapers being accessed through the internet, and we would strongly urge that all the privileges and protections sought in this declaration be extended to the web editions of newspapers.”
  43. 43. Thank you