Writing an opinion about ‘Forgotten heroes of the Eelam war’ for the Weekend Leader, political researcher and member of Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), Sinthujan Varatharajah, outlined the reasons behind the organisation’s forthcoming report, “Silencing the Press: An analysis of Violence against the Media in Sri Lanka.”
Sinthujan Varatharajah, works as a London based researcher at Euro-Islam.info and teaching assistant at the University College London (UCL) Political Geography Department.
Extracts have been reproduced below. See here for the full piece.
"The last period of the war in Sri Lanka has often been dubbed as a ‘war without witnesses’ by western governments, media and other stakeholders, including the Sri Lankan government."
"With this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, only few days away, it is an appropriate moment to revisit the role of journalists during Sri Lanka’s last months of war in 2009."
"While Western, Indian and Sri Lankan media were hesitant to engage in live reporting, thus effectively designing the notion of a war without information, images and voice bites, the area was in reality far from being subject to a complete media blackout."
"In spite of the government’s attempts to evict foreign journalists and humanitarian aid workers prior to commencing its no-prisoners-war, a network of news reporters continued to work in the area. They were Tamil reporters of local and transnational news outlets who helped maintain a persistent flow of information and images that exited the besieged area and reached a diasporic audience via traditional and new media."
"When remembering the war and advocating justice for Tamil war victims, the images by Tamil journalists are now prominently used and displayed to produce retrospective reports and documentaries on the atrocities of those long months."
"However, there has hardly been a discussion about the fate of the very reporters who produced these images. The question on what happened to these courageous journalists who remained in the war zone during the last stages of the war while Western reporters remained absent is still unanswered."
"The “war without witness” mantra is essentially used to marginalize Tamil narrations of war by reinforcing the notion that only white and non-local interpretations of war can be regarded as objective, substantive and truthful. Local journalists’ contributions to truth seeking became the backdrop of the story told by others, often western journalists and academics."
"In our forthcoming report, “Silencing the Press: An analysis of Violence against the Media in Sri Lanka”, we assess the risk of extreme violence on media workers in Sri Lanka from 2004 to the present, by analysing the available data on who is being targeted, when, and where."