Historian Mitchell Stephens wrote that from the most isolated societies in Africa to the most distant island in the Pacific, humans have exchanged a similar mix of news throughout history and across cultures. Humans have always had an intrinsic need to know what is occurring beyond their direct experience. This is why journalism is so important to society; its central purpose is to impart the truth so that people will have the information they need to be sovereign.
If history has shown us anything, the first step that a government takes in order to suppress freedom in society is to suppress the media. This is what occurred in Sri Lanka at the beginning of 2009 during the closing months of their civil war. The restriction of free press cut the Sri Lankan community off from the world at large, and left its government open to govern without consequences. While the worldâ€™s press was focused on the Israeli incursion into Gaza at the beginning of 2009 where 1,500 died, between 40,000-70,000 innocent citizens of Sri Lanka were murdered behind an international veil of silence.
Thomas Jefferson once revealed that no government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free no government ever will. Media censorship in Sri Lanka paved the way for a culture of impunity to be implemented, with newspapers, news channels, radio stations and news sites bought, bullied or silenced by government sympathisers. The events that took place in 2009 in Sri Lanka should have been reported, they should have made the headlines. The Sri Lankan diaspora and the international community at large had the right to know the truth.
At the time, when it mattered most, the truth was not revealed by the world media regarding the events that occurred in Sri Lanka during those final months of its civil war, and the repercussions of these are still being felt within its community today. Only after I experienced it myself and until it affected me personally, was I able to fully grasp the importance of journalistic truth or the immensely important role that free press has on our societies. The suppression of free press in Sri Lanka meant that thousands of innocent civilians were killed in silence.
The suppression of media freedom in Sri Lanka = the systematic removal of Sri Lankan democracy and enabled the implementation of a totalitarian state.