All Lanka, all the time


Associated Press

Associated Press


“The blunt words underline how difficult it has become to cover one of the world’s bloodiest and most under-reported conflicts. The government controls access to the war zones and international media groups complain of reporters being intimidated.”

*From The Guardian’s Randeep Ramesh on Feb. 1

Because it is my pet conflict, I wanted to fill readers in on the continuing (and deepening) Sri Lanka crisis. I’ll lead with The New York Times, out of respect for the fact that they finally sent someone to Colombo. I wonder what hotel all the ex-Delhi correspondents are occupying. 

 According to the Times, this is the endgame. The LTTE, known colloquially throughout the west as the Tamil Tigers, are alleged by the island nation’s Sinhalese government to be experiencing last death throws in the isolated Jaffna Peninsula that has been their stronghold for the past quarter century. Of course, since foreign journalists, the UN (et al)  and NGOs were all expelled from the region last fall (and may yet be removed from the country at large), its hard to say. 

This is the first feature story I have seen the NYT write from Colombo in probably the entire time I have been following this conflict. It’s good, but feels like too little, too late given that, when the smoke clears, we are likely to see death and destruction to rival the  tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in 2005. 

From the Guardian: 

The war has extracted a terrible human toll. Humanitarian groups say as many as 250,000 unprotected civilians are trapped in the area — used, say Sri Lanka’s government, as “human shields” by the rebels. Over the weekend tens of thousands of Tamils marched in London in protest over the Sri Lankan army’s actions.

The Guardian and  Randeep Ramesh do a better job keeping up with the conflict—because Sri Lanka was a British colony until the middle of last century, not because the Brits are inherently better, in case you were wondering. I was going to go through and link a bunch of his articles as I have been reading them, but that wouldn’t do justice to the most comprehensive coverage of this conflict in the world right now (sorry HT and TOI), and the one man who is doing all of it. 

Instead, I’m linking a column written by Mr. Ramesh himself, by way of explanation of what I feel is a key difference between American and European news. Namely, the sense that a reporter may be objective in his or her job, but a human being, especially one steeped in a region and its vida diaria, is not.  And once in a while, it is appropriate for the human being behind the news to have a voice. An informed voice, an intelligent voice, but a voice none the less. In a conflict and a region as complex and ill understood as Sri Lanka, that voice could not be more important.


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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, India, Sri Lanka, The Liberal Media

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