Everybody Has an Agenda

A study of self-censorship in Sri Lankan journalism

In this paper we shed light on different kinds of self-censorship, the reasons for its existence, and the consequences brought upon Sri Lanka’s journalism, as well as their ideas for the future of free press in Sri Lanka. During our research we have found that self-censorship is dependent on many underlying factors in the media structure. These factors include lack of professional standards and influence of external forces, the legal and business environments, and threat to safety for journalists. To raise professional standards, by which we mean general competence, basic level of education, knowledge of Human Rights, professional status and wages, a trustworthy institution must create a common ground for practicing journalists. The industry cannot finance these reforms by itself, due to a non-profitable business environment. To do this there must be a sustainable financial model, either through continuous foreign subsidies or through an independent national network for funding. The nature of the business environment and the difficult economic climate increase the influence of political and commercial actors in the industry. This influence, in addition to low professional standards, does not provide the possibility of creating good journalism in Sri Lanka. By ”good” journalism we mean journalism that reflects public opinion, responds to public concerns, and investigates abuse of power by authorities. Finally we identify the threat of harm towards journalists to be one of the main reasons for self-censorship in Sri Lanka, whether it is physical threats or invisible scare tactics.

Björn Widmark och Jan Soja
Journalist, Journalistikgranskning , ht14
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