Thursday, March 22, 2018 05:37:33 PM

How Does Our Media Cover Tragedy? An Open Letter to Sri Lankan Media Establishments

By Subha Wijesiriwardena and Jake Oorloff - Wed May 11, 9:04 am

Photo Courtesy of The Massimo Group

On 25 April 2016, two 19 year-old women were fatally hit by a train while attempting to cross a railway track in Dehiwala. The tragic incident quickly attracted the attention of the media, and journalists from every major domestic media outlet reported the incident, bringing to the nation and the world images and stories about the “tragic death of two friends”. The coverage included graphic CCTV footage of their last moments, sound bites from devastated parents and family, as well as those from a grief-stricken student body.

We write this letter as citizens who observed this tragedy via the local media; we are deeply concerned by the visible lack of principles and ethics for journalism in Sri Lanka, as displayed in the coverage of this recent event. We believe reportage of this incident has revealed the major ethical failings of our media.

As a people we have experienced and continue to experience numerous challenges – a war, a major natural disaster, and various ongoing social conflicts; we would think, as a nation, that we have by now developed a heightened level of sensitivity towards tragedy and conflict, and that we would see this reflected in our media. However, time and again, the Sri Lankan media, mainstream and otherwise, have displayed a troubling disregard for basic ethics, disappointing the public in our need for sensitivity….

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