There’s been stuff in the news recently about the quality of ‘reportage’ in our local media and on the integrity of the reporters themselves, which got Java’s inner-wheel spinning enough for him to come up with some observations. It’s not as if his thoughts are special or anything, but I found some of the stuff he spewed out to be worth a mull or more.

He observed how Iqbal Athas has been in the firing-line sights of quite a few politicos in the past and it seems that the trend continues. The moment he reports anything even the slightest bit disturbing to the powers that be and their supporters, all manner of allegations are strewn around implying that he is a pawn of the opposition or of the terrorists and a danger to national security. He has been raided, assaulted, abused and threatened with death. His family has been frightened and intimidated by security personnel. His security has been withdrawn. And yet he continues to do what he considers to be his bounden duty as a member of the Fourth Estate to keep the public informed of his particular area of expertise. So is he, as is alleged by forces allied with the government, a danger to national security and the cats-paw of the opposition and/or the terrorists, or is he a journalist/reporter who is good at his job and whose integrity is beyond compromise? Or is there some kind of middle-ground that encompasses elements of both views?

Then, he said, there’s Sonali Samarasinghe of the ‘Sunday Leader’ and ‘Morning Leader’ publications who has been the recipient of awards on more than one occasion for her excellence in journalism (we’re not sure of the specific awards). She too has been hauled up by the ‘powers’, threatened and grilled on her sources and other aspects of the information she puts out for all to see. Her skill is beyond doubt and her courage, in the face of the threats and actions of the government forces, is highly commendable and we’re sure, appreciated by many readers who want more than the usual mess of pottage ladled out by the subservient personnel of the Lake House media and the others that support the government.

Java was quick to point out that he has no problem with folk supporting the government, but that the crux of the issue is that ‘reporting’, to be true to its function, must necessarily be as ‘factual’ as possible, and not used for purposes of obfuscating information with the intention of misrepresenting the ‘facts’. Another problem with those ‘faithful to masters’ is the lack of reporting of what may be construed by them to be ‘damaging’ to the establishment. These sorts of ‘reporters’ (whoever they may be, and to whomever they are aligned), in Java’s view, are nothing more than propagandists in the guise of journalists who sell their integrity for the favours bestowed on them, or in the hope of something of value coming their way.

There are many journalists that have been brutalised and also killed by ‘unknown’ forces. Strangely enough, (or maybe not), all these murdered journalists were those who wrote and/or reported on issues and events that were either detrimental to the past or present government’s image or that revealed some shocking disclosures that pointed fingers at specific individuals in power. Some reporters that revealed sympathy for the Tamil cause have also been touted as ‘terrorist sympathisers’ and have been done away with – who by, remains a mystery to the law-enforcement authorities.

Lasantha Wickramatunge of ‘The Sunday Leader’ also had some harrowing experiences with more than one leader of the nation, being shot at and threatened with death due to his slant on the way things were being done by those in power. However, he is still at it – and love him or hate him, there’s no getting away from his courage and commitment to reporting what he sees as the blatant corruption and mismanagement of the country that is taking place – regardless of who is in power, or of the consequences.

Then, as Java pointed out, there are other types of journalists, some of who straddle the fence and play it safe. There are also those like the one that most kottu bloggers will be familiar with – the one who lifts other folks’ material without permission and publishes the stuff without blinking the proverbial eye. And a whole lot more as well – types of journalists, that is.

The thing about all this, as Java, pointed out, is that once a journalist’s integrity is compromised – and is seen by the readers to have been compromised – there’s little chance of gaining back any respect that may have existed before. ‘Prostitution’ is probably the term that fits those that would trade their integrity for something considered to be of value, so as Java observed:

Maaan, we gotta re-define dem red-lite zones in da city – startin wit dat ol house by da lake.

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