Monday, 27 April 2009

Sri Lanka

It saddens me that in Malaysia, when the Israeli onslaught on Gaza started, local news media immediately picked up on it and gave it plenty of (expectedly anti-Israeli) coverage, but the conflict in north-east Sri Lanka (Al-Jazeera link) hardly gets mentioned. In fact they are still having talk shows on the Israeli attacks, thanks to Ahmadenijad's address in Geneva.

While I myself feel very strongly about the Israeli attacks, I don't think it's acceptable that the Sri Lankan problem is sidelined, even as the situation is so fragile there. The UN estimates that about 50,000 non-combatants are caught between government troops and the LTTE fighters. That's a lot of people under risk, and that's a lot of people to ignore. I'm praying that things get better, although I really don't know how that will happen.

I suppose everyone knows the Malaysian political and religious implications and interests in the Israeli situation. And of course everyone also knows how much local news media is politically influenced. Unlike when Palestinians are involved, the Sri Lankan conflict is just another news item, just another local squabble that doesn't unnerve or anger us personally or puts Malaysia at great risk (Australia is worried that there will be a huge influx of asylum seekers, but Malaysia is obviously not a country high on granting asylum status, so I guess we're not worried even if we are just across the sea from Sri Lanka).

To be fair to the Malaysian media, I know for a fact that around the world there is plenty of biased coverage, but in developed countries especially, this is more often due to the editorial and political stance of papers and news agencies rather than top-down political interference, and those stances are for the most part clear and widely known (eg: The Times in the UK is centre to centre-right and in the US, the Washington Post and Wall Sreet Journal are right-leaning papers, PBS is a liberal tv station, etc). Moreover, the general public has a wide selection to sift through, allowing them to read both sides and then deciding for themselves, should they so choose. Obviously that the same is not available to Malaysians. But I digress, I am not here to examine the news media landscape of Malaysia.

But also in their defense, I cannot also say that the Sri Lankan situation is getting any more coverage in other countries than it is here. The fact is that this problem has been going on (and off) for 37 years, and maybe people are just tired of hearing old news. The same could be said about Sudan, and many other conflicts. People sometimes just choose to be ignorant (cf: Rwanda).

But then again, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lasted for even longer, yet it still gets plenty of attention here..


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