Years ago, when I was an undergraduate, there was among us a highly talented boy. He was extremely intelligent and although he hardly ever studied or visited the library always produced excellent results at examinations. He was also a musician and one of the most accomplished I’ve heard on the Israj. He was an actor and a sportsman too, his pet discipline being wrestling. He was literally all over the university, engaging in numerous activities even though he spent his morning teaching, having got an appointed on account of his qualifications in the field of music.
This boy, who always spoke sense, would on occasion come out with a monumental gaffe. The running joke about him was that when he did slip, he slipped so bad, not least of all because he would add gaffe to gaffe in the process of trying to rectify things. Channel 4 reminded me of his a few days ago.
A few weeks ago, Channel 4 came up with a film on Sri Lanka, replete with a cast of shady characters all portrayed without mentioning their involvement in terrorist activities. It always happens. Hatred and ego are the parents of error. It was a full-of-holes production and the holes have been pointed out and indeed, a full review would, I believe, show that the holes are larger than actually seem.
It looks like Channel 4 (henceforth Canal 4, conveyor of foul-matter in the manner of a sewer) has decided that the best way to plug a hole is to stuff it with garbage. The piece of journalistic incompetence and investigative sloth forever marked by abysmal math skills and lack of integrity called ‘Killing Fields’ has been followed by an ‘interview’ of a couple of soldiers (or so Canal 4 claims) who claim to have been witness to what happened in the last days of the monumental hostage rescue operation carried by the Sri Lankan security forces.
Canal 4 (maybe I should call it ‘Sewer 4’?) showcases a witness called Fernando. Claims are made but are not backed by a shred of evidence. The only claim that can be corroborated is that of there being dead bodies. It is strange that Sewer 4 has not thought of interviewing the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were rescued from the clutches of terrorists and who are now free to travel all over Sri Lanka and all over the world. They, if any, could help make Fernando’s claims more believable.
Interestingly, none of the testimonies in the public arena mention any atrocities of the nature that Fernando claims took place. It is strange too that it took Sewer 4 more than 14 months to find the much-trumpeted ‘First Eyewitness’. It is almost as if the only people around were the soldiers, that only ghosts came out of the uncleared areas and that the soldiers had perpetrated these alleged atrocities on phantoms. Someone must be hallucinating or intent on turning hallucination into fact. Garbage is the word that comes to mind right now, in this generous mood I am in.
Another ‘witness’ claims he was privy to a conversation between the Defence Secretary and a field commander. Sewer 4 tries to frill the story by bringing in a statement made by a former President of Sri Lanka endorsing the fact that her naïve son had been reduced to tears by the previous Sewer 4 film. While all this raises a lot of questions regarding who is doing what (Chandrika Kumaratunga was tongue-tied during the last stages of the operation and had to swallow her malice down with the greatest difficulty in order to mutter a few words of congratulation) in Sewer 4 productions.
In the end it’s all hearsay. Channel 4 told a good story in ‘Killing Fields’. These latest efforts are toilet wash. Stuff for the sewer.
As for accountability, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans do not need a gutter television outfit or a highly discredited ex-president to lecture on the subject. There is a process. There is keen interest in the process. What this gutter station is doing will harm this process simply because the claims are so preposterous, mal-intentioned and busybody-like that the citizens of Sri Lanka could at some point turn around and say, ‘enough is enough; the war is done, terrorism is out, life is in, all bets off, we start from scratch!’ That would indeed be a pity, all things considered, but that’s where these efforts that ought to go into a text book on how not to be a journalist are taking us.
So yes, Channel 4 has a reputation, a name, but when one stands on brand name and pees, you don’t call it a shower from the heavens. Pee is pee. Even when employed to wash away poo-poo evicted with a lot of heave and puff earlier.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org