Updated: Nov 30, 2022
"Corruption is a Cancer now. Please consult your nearest media outlet to see whether you take your attention in healthy doses of lies."
Media corruption is a dangerously contagious disease which is spreading around Sri Lanka and seems to be without a cure. The cure would have been transparency supported by an honest government but that concept itself is laughable at this point.
The four pillars of democracy are legislature, executive, judiciary and media. Media being the fourth pillar of democracy does not bring equivalence to it being the least important. In the past decade in Sri Lanka over eight hundred journalists were killed and abducted and all of these heinous crimes are left unanswered. The assassination of journalist Lasantha Wickramatunge in 2009, left the entire world in an agonised shock yet not only did the crimes against journalists and censorship of media increase from them on but became more and more violent, more and more recurrent. The media of a country should be transparent and void or any censorship, then only does the society strengthen its confidence in the judicial system and brings courage to banish corruption from a country altogether.
The concept that free press is equivalent to a transparent and effective governance is lost within the people, not just in Sri Lanka but even in states as the USA. The most recent scandal involving the 2016 presidential election and Cambridge Analytica is the perfect example. A database company, working with candidate Trump, abused and stole the data they gained from people in media platforms resulting in Trump becoming the President of the USA. This afore mentioned incident brings light to how unaware society is about the corruption that they themselves undergo. Uncovering and unveiling the dark truths of authorities to the public is what is what a media does to prevent corruption. Instead media is now a tool from which they twist and turn the truth according to however they please.
The corruption in media begins from continuously tolerated petty acts of corruption that develop into grand corruption schemes. Bribery and nepotism have become the two elements governing corruption. Advertising companies who slip under the desk cash for news coverages disguised as real news article, rich families who control an entire press firm to cover up their dealings and finally the government itself who censor journalists and and gains complete control and authority over press.
In a country as Sri Lanka, which is developing, has a large amount of underpaid journalists who will quite easily give into the temptation of cash for news situations. The incapability of a single media outlet to report incidents as they are, and the inability of a government or the incompetence of officials to act without corruption calls for a deeper issue in society. The issue of corruption in media should be addressed from the roots of journalism itself and the ethics of journalism must be engrained in the practice of it.
Media development organisations and institutions should encourage ethical behaviour and increase profession standards. The relevant media personnel should be given the adequate training and knowledge about investigating a high-ranking authority or government cases. Again, the threat to freedom of press attributes to the larger scale issue of moral degeneration in society. In the 2015 alone, one hundred and fifteen journalists have been killed and more have gone missing. When has such diabolical crimes become the "norm" of society? If one were to read a daily newspaper, more than four articles would be on the corruption of a certain authoritative figure and whatnot.
Thus ethical training for media personality be it print or broadcasting agents, is essential. The media itself must start within themselves to stop the ongoing censorship. The public could mobilise against and act against corruption and the media could create political competition between leaders on ending corruption.
Even if a certain media outlet is owned by the government, there need not be any state censorship if there is transparency in the government. For situations as such, media development organisations should improve financial resources for the media. Lowly paid salaries encourage certain individuals to prompt corruption in order to survive. Such acts could be stopped through a proper programme which equally distributes funds and financial resources to media and press agencies that are in need of it.
Media, freedom of media brings and helps corruption to be ended and caught while aiding to bring forth transparency in a country. And if media is tainted by nepotism and bribery; for example the Treasury bond scam, to which the media played an essential role, the public begins to lose its faith in the legal system, the public begins to believe that truth is equal to death and thus, the public begins to live in fear while the other part of the public brings to go astray and become demoralised. The political body and the social structure will begin to go into a chaotic mess, as it has already started to. The amount of "valour" that goes into corruption in media, the boldness that in intact, certainly hints that moral degradation could be the root of this colossal problem.
We, nonetheless, as a nation to protect our people, to protect the notion of democracy must conspire against corruption in media. The education system plays a vital hand in this issue as well as legal action and legislation of laws concerning media. The rapidly and alarmingly increment of corruption that exists in media must be and should be judiciously nipped at the bud before it turns into an arduous cancer that monstrously devours humanity not just within Sri Lanka but in the world.