|MEDIA MISREPRESENTS MENTION OF SRI LANKA IN U.N.|
|Thursday, 29 May 2008|
Refuting on the article titled “Security Council concerned over civilian deaths”, published in the Daily Mirror on 29th May 2008, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha writes to the Editor, Daily Mirror. Given below is the full-text of Prof. Wijesinha’s letter.
I write in response to some misrepresentations in the article entitled “Security Council concerned over civilian deaths’ on the front page of the Daily Mirror of May 29th. This is an example of the mischief making that had to be corrected by some months ago by the Press Council of Sri Lanka, when a reporter in the Daily Mirror sought to create the impression that the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission had accused Sri Lankan forces of assisting in the recruitment of child soldiers. The SLMM report had said nothing of the sort, and you had to publish an apology.
My concern then was that you were trying to denigrate the army by misquoting the SLMM, and I am happy to say that, following the recognition by the SLMM of the tactics being used, they were more circumspect. In this instance I fear that you are trying to insinuate that the Security Council has been unduly critical of Sri Lanka, when in fact the report of Sir John Holmes simply stated facts about which the government of Sri Lanka also continues to worry.
The first paragraph of your report for instance claims that the Security Council ‘expressed great concern at the number of civilians who have been killed or injured due to the war in Sri Lanka this year, and called on all parties to the conflict to maintain international humanitarian law and protect the people.’
The Security Council did nothing of the sort. In Sir John Holmes’ report he mentioned that ‘In Sri Lanka, hundreds of civilians had been killed or injured this year’, which is a fact. Most of those civilians have been victims of LTTE terrorism, whilst there are also instances, which the Sri Lankan government must deal with firmly, of civilian killings in areas outside the war area.
Your report however implies that these killings are due to the war, which seems part of your efforts, exemplified in the instance I cited, to denigrate the forces who are engaged in the war front. There seems no other reason for your gratuitous inclusion of the words ‘due to the war’ in what is presented as a statement of concern by the Security Council, artfully phrased to suggest that the concern was only about Sri Lanka.
In fact the situation in several countries was discussed, with categorical condemnation of state forces in some instances such as Iraq and Afghanistan (where the actions of national and multinational forces caused concern) and Israel and the Sudan. There was no condemnation at all of state forces in Sri Lanka, and no measures were recommended in particular for Sri Lanka, contrary to the impression created by your bulleted box. That seemed designed to make your readers think that action with regard to Sri Lanka was required, and that there were calls made on Sri Lanka, which was not the case at all. Again, the word ‘havoc’ was used, quite understandably, also of southern Israel and Gaza and Colombia and other places, whilst criticism of particular actors was reserved for Iraq and Afghanistan, where there was a clear implication that Western operations were at fault in addition to terrorism – ‘In Afghanistan and Iraq, civilians remained victims of suicide attacks as well as aerial bombardments and search operations against anti-Government elements.’
In short, Sir John Holmes was balanced, as he assured me was necessary, and as befits a senior UN official, though unfortunately we have seen how their words can be twisted to create havoc. If there was any trace of unfortunate bias, it came in the remarks of the Canadian representative who used a strange phrase to describe the situation in Sri Lanka, while obviously objecting to the balance Sir John had suggested with regard to Afghanistan, in implying that the Afghan Government (and by implication the multinational forces responsible for civilian casualties) were only doing what had to be done to deal with suicide bombings.
This strange selectivity deserves citation in full – JOHN MCNEE (Canada) said that in places like the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Burundi and Somalia, civilians were part of the calculus of conflict. In Afghanistan, indiscriminate acts of violence, such as suicide bombings, were a potent reminder of why support for the Afghan Government was so important. -And it may make sense for our Foreign Ministry to check on exactly what was meant, and whether Canada did not think ‘indiscriminate acts of violence, such as suicide bombings’ in Sri Lanka did not warrant support for the Sri Lankan government. Mr McNee’s comment seems at odds with the helpful approach his government is taking in Canada itself to stop terrorist activity. Had he known how it would be used by your newspaper, referring his general comments to particular countries, perhaps he might have been more careful.
Your skilful juxtaposition of three separate portions of Sir John’s speech is another aspect of what seems a deliberate attempt to create the impression of hostility where none was intended. I hope this will not recur, and that any political capital your paper hopes to gain will not be through deliberate distortion of the generally helpful approach of the United Nations.
I will copy this letter to the UN Resident Representative, so that he will continue to be aware of a continuing process he and his colleagues need to guard against.
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Sunday, 04 January 2009 )|
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