23 July 2011

There are films Channel 4 will not make, questions they won’t ask

Dr. Noel Nadesan, a Tamil domiciled in Australia who edited the Tamil community newspaper ‘Uthayam’ for 14 years, has responded to the recently released Channel 4 film (yes, not ‘documentary’) on Sri Lanka.  He remarks, based on long experience with the Tamil community both in Australia and Sri Lanka, ‘about the callous way in which the media is exploiting the suffering of (his) Tamil people for self-serving ends’. He argues, cogently, that the Channel 4 film does not help the long suffering Tamil people but indeed only makes things worse.

He has pointed out example by example Channel 4’s malice and utter disregard for professional ethics.  He has stated some truths that would make the makers of that film uncomfortable but only if they are guilty of honest error.  That’s sadly not the case. Let’s hear what Dr. Nadesan says:

‘I travelled Sri Lanka seven times last two years widely in war zones in Vanni and talked to the victims who were trapped in the war zones. They knew that they were targeted both sides and they could not comprehend why the LTTE should expose to retaliatory fire in the NFZ. They could not understand why the LTTE turned the NFZ into a war zone.

‘The agents of LTTE in the Tamil diaspora also shed a lot of crocodile tears about the 300,000 IDPs. They described the IDPs camps as concentration camps. Knowing the general conditions under which Sri Lankans live I can assure you that the conditions of the Tamils, particularly in the in the IDP camps, were far superior to the slums of Colombo or even the conditions of the Sinhala villagers and hill country Tamils in remote areas.

‘Even the Tamil MPs of Tamil Nadu and Indian journalists who visited the camps were convinced that the Sri Lankan authorities had done a very good job under trying conditions. Besides a comparison with the manner in which the government treated the Sinhala JVP rebels who took up arms in 1971 will reveal that the LTTErs received far better treatment than the JVPers. Most of them were incarcerated for more than four years.’

Dr. Nadesan lists a number of documentaries that Channel 4 could have commissioned but did not and probably never will. Here is a selection from that list:
  • LTTE decimating the entire Tamil leadership in the democratic stream
  • LTTE going round Tamil houses, knocking on doors at midnight, to grab under aged children hidden by Tamils parents
  • LTTE massacring Muslims worshippers at prayer in mosques in the East
  • LTTE Ethnic cleansing of Muslims and the Sinhalese communities in the North and the East
  • The slaughter of 600 policemen who surrendered to the LTTE in the hope of promoting peace talks
  • The massacres of young Buddhist monks and pregnant Sinhala mothers in border (sic) village in remote Sri Lanka
Would Channel 4, given the obviously enormous resources it has access to, ever come up with a comprehensive documentary on the LTTE’s vast international racketeering, including credit card fraud, arms and human smuggling, drug trafficking and extortion?  It would be an eye-opener to all governments dealing with terrorist threats.

Channel 4 can do a documentary on Channel 4 itself; about selective emphasis, footage-doctoring and suppression of relevant information.  In fact Channel 4 can do a documentary on the making of ‘Killing Fields in Sri Lanka’, giving information to the world at large about why Ramesh’s story was half-narrated, why the complicity of an LTTE ‘TV presenter’ in suicide terrorism was not mentioned (they have the footage where she glorifies suicide terrorism, thereby actively engaging in mobilizing cadres for suicide missions which, Channel 4 knows, have taken the lives of thousands of civilians, including Tamils) and how it came to pass that it missed the obvious fact that much of footage shown was staged by the LTTE (as Dr. Nadesan damningly shows).

Channel 4 can also document why it did not include in its narrative the statements of UN and INGO officials who made observations about how the security forces treated the IDPs, the conditions in these facilities and how they treated detainees and those who surrendered in rehabilitation facilities.  Channel 4 can also make a film comparing how the security forces acted during and after the military operation with how other countries (especially the USA and UK) behave during military operations and after claimed war-end, especially the treatment of IDPs.

Would Channel 4 offer as ‘moving’ a film on US and UK atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya, one wonders. Would Channel 4 interview Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka who were held hostage by the LTTE and saved by the Sri Lankan security forces at great cost? Would they ask the following questions and faithfully report the answers?
  • ‘What did you eat in the last days in Vellimullivaikkal?’
  • ‘Did the LTTE ever take food, medicine and other supplies sent by the Government, I/NGOs and UN agencies?’
  • ‘Did the LTTE set up artillery positions among civilian populations?’
  • ‘Did you lose any child to the LTTE’s aggressive recruitment and were you happy then or thereafter that your child was made to join the LTTE?’
  • ‘Were the conditions you lived in from January to May 2009 better than those in the IDP camps?’
  • ‘Have you heard of the security forces having ill-treated any of the LTTE cadres who were captured or had surrendered and thereafter rehabilitated and released?’
  • ‘Would you rather go back to the situation that prevailed before May 19, 2009?’
I wonder if Channel 4 would ever take on any of the above projects. Sorry, I am pretty sure they would not. They cannot, given political leanings, absence of journalistic integrity and professional incompetence. That’s sad. I am sure Dr. Nadesan would agree.