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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2955

Media—Clash of civilizations and truth

By Oscar E V Fernando

If media is a derivation from the word mediator, then a journalist has to play an important role with standards of truth and ethics in this high tech era where media has been dubbed as the fourth estate coming next to the legislature, executive and the judiciary. They carry out the important functions of communicators and opinion formers and therefore have to report discreetly after due research on a subject.

It must be in the minds of readers that a writer or a journalist searching for the truth in the field of media would at all times express his opinion—an opinion being only a view held as probable; the more the writer and the reader understands this concept, the more it will help in situations of conflicts. It is increasingly seen that recordings of history are but opinions expressed by writers in their observation of the truth; in fact arbitrators are essentially needed to decipher between opinions of the truth as expressed by the contending parties. Don’t Appeal Courts exist essentially due to this very reason?

Media plays a very significant role in conflict situations in a nation, between nations and in the world; to this extent the rights and duties of media persons have to be protected. The independent Press Complaints Commission (PCC) of UK has been functioning for some time for this purpose and also as arbitrators in cases where there are disputes between the writer and aggrieved readers with codes of conduct laid down by the PCC covering any deficiencies in the law. A PCC is now established in Sri Lanka too.

Beginning with hieroglyphics written in cave walls to the present day technologies, the urge of a journalist to search and express truth as far as is possible in an atmosphere free of intimidations should be encouraged by society; more so when the scope of a journalist is made wider with new technologies that have opened out many avenues of easy communication; however journalists have to ensure that this scope is used with prudent discretion sans abuse.

That news reporting should be done and at times done with sensation is well known to many writers, but there is much more to journalism than just sensationalism and outright news reporting.

There should be an attempt as for as is possible to inculcate civic consciousness amongst people in society with divisive forces that cause estranged families, societies, and nations due to arousal of passions in their writings especially carried at the wrong time.

Media should look to areas promoting peace and solidarity among peoples thus stemming rapid momentum of terrorism, warfare and hatred.

Would that the media barons give thought to this whilst they keep that strict eye on profit margins, at least for their own survival even if not for the sake of humanity!

In a context of such ‘truth searching’ mass media and journalists could promote justice, unity and solidarity in reporting events accurately and truthfully, analyzing situations and problems discreetly, and providing a forum for different opinions instead of propagating their own opinion only dogmatically.

People including journalists are in search of meaningful life styles, and all face human conflicts that increasingly seem to be more of communicative conflicts than factual problems; Sri Lanka is a good case study for this purpose.

Communicative conflicts if neglected can very well lead to armed conflicts—this is the necessity for negotiation in conflict areas with an available third party facilitation; it is in this area that the journalists could play an important role with expressive skills and research available to them in plenty with advanced information technologies that open out fields in economics, politics, culture, human rights and duties; this include promotion of obligations towards others and safeguarding dignity of persons, family etc: such a ‘search for truth’ could ensure contending communities within the nation. The above mentioned are areas that the mass media and journalists could bring out into the open for dialogue in popular electronic and print media.

It has to be stressed that if there is no management and coordination of the mass media in the context of the present dizzy heights of technologies, the media can run the risk of manipulating and conditioning, rather than serving society—it can become a destructive weapon to foster injustice and conflicts.

Apparently there is a world wide clash of civilizations—seen in an increasingly aggravating form in our own country. Could this not be a clash of ignorance where journalists could play an important role by way of communication? Very often such clashes originate with biased and inaccurate historical recordings made with selfish motives and expressed as opinions. Hence is the danger of trying to discuss history with own dogmatic opinions that are but views held as probable and without a referee of a sort.

This imminent clash of civilizations is so potent in nations, among nations and in the world that even a well represented unit set up at the United Nations could be an independent summit level third party to monitor such historical controversies so potent with terrorism that the US and UN are apparently concerned about.

There are several such burning questions in our country today which without unbiased discussion can lead to further blood shed--foremost among these being ethnic and religious feuds accumulating over the years.

In the ethnic area all of us have experienced the heavy toll it has taken and most have read about it and therefore need no exemplification—except to mention the recent experiences of bombings in the north followed by a massacre of navy personnel closer south, and now, the attack on the Galle harbor—again curiously navy personnel. These could lead to another—and another!

As if one controversy is insufficient religious controversies are wantonly brewed by some religionists turned power hungry politicians—by propagating opinions that are disputable but expressed dogmatically with available might: should we forget that it is might that has caused problems already?

In the area of religion there are historical opinions expressed by the nationally acclaimed scholar, historian and archeologist Dr Senarath Paranavitarne who categorically states that Christianity existed in Sri Lanka prior to the arrival of the Portuguese---and it is contended that this is not mentioned in the Mahawamsa. Now this is a matter that can be discussed and debated by interested scholars instead of being swept under the carpet with the cloak of might!

With such narrow parochial and bigoted policies it does not take much to see why we are far lagging behind several countries that were far behind us at the time of gaining independence. Do we need to wallow further in the mire—without dispassionately discussing with the assistance of the media the various contentions that could fester if it is allowed to be cultured further? Haven’t we seen the same tragic drama unfolding over and over again at the brink of a settlement of ethnic or religious issues—such as the several abrogated pacts?

Active media bodies should have dispassionate interviewing of relevant specialists for follow up discussions in the media, in order to placate emotional outbursts in the country that could add further fuel to the existing fire.

In the matter of the ‘search for truth’ this writer has expressed his own opinions in composing this poem;


Truth! Verity of all verities—illusive to the curious mind so finely tuned.

That Lost Chord in the Symphony we search from the womb to our tomb
The singer artist scientist philosopher meditator search with efforts futile. Sees perfection; says eureka; others destroy it with their guile.

We say we know the truth: do we know the heart of human kind?
Judge not said He, you will never know it hidden in the depth of human mind.

Cast the first stone, the one who hath not sinned
For how would ye know that this woman sinned?

Judgment is mine said He, for only I know the truth.
Why do you try to judge, unless your own heart belies a truth.
For I am the Way and the Truth; you leave that judgment to me.
Mind your task with diligence—do it well to satisfy both you and me.

Picasso, Da’Vinci, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Marx Lenin, Freud Junge,
Mona Lisa, Last Supper, works galore, Moon, Mars, searched with fine tune.

Invention? Discovery? Voyage seeking that Lost Chord? Illusive-- Existing Truth! Searched by restless souls—till they rest again in that Everlasting Truth.

The more we know of a subject, we know how little we know of it?
Can the creature in its puny mind, analyze the Mind of Him who created it.

Why spend much time wasted, because you could not find all of it?
Live Life, serving all, on this voyage of truth, and do your own little bit.

Remember Augustine searching for Truth walking the beach?
Saw a child trying to empty the ocean into a hole with a shell on that beach.

Thought he; I am trying to decipher Truth; that same impossible task?
Emptied restlessness, accepted Truth, and continued to walk that Saintly Path.

Be still to know the Truth said he for ‘tis an experience not experiment.
Why search in vain when it is there within—for all to experience.
The Greats taught silence in the ‘search for truth’.
Do it and know that peace be still is the one and only Truth.

Truth; Thou eludes us, try as we may, to grasp thee with Mind Body and Soul
Thou art within us: plays hide and seek; we glimpse, not clasp your Vision Pure
Truth Illusive! We only opine; and this is a view held as probable!
Live so, to grasp at voyage’s end, the splendor of the—Truth Most Admirable!

- Asian Tribune -

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