Q – What do you identify as the responsibility of a professional journalist in this age, between political and capitalist operations?
A – What I see, not only in Sri Lanka but in the world also, is what a professional journalist only does is serving his employer. Employees work for the capital needs of the employer. For example, there was a change of government in Sri Lanka. There we saw the same writer, the same journalist changing the way they write, the way they switched their sides. The current journalist has no voice. By that I do not mean a complete negation of the journalist.
There are people at both local and foreign levels who have a passion for their profession. They are using alternative media. For example, the ruling Bharathiya Janatha Party in India is buying all media institutions. Or the owners have already been bought. But still, there are journalists who bring out the truth in what they see.
We see some instances where their voices are rising louder. Under all these circumstances, I hope that the journalists will be honest with what they see. Acting as someone who expresses what he sees and reveals the truth. The need for such media practice is increasingly emerging.
Q – This is an era where social media has a decisive influence on public opinion. What society expected from a journalist a decade ago, is it still expected today?
A – Yes, the society expects. But the media has abolished that role for the sake of its professional existence. There are clusters of media all over the world today. These are under an oligarchy.
That means the person who has money buys as much as possible from other media institutions. Rupert Modock, for example, owns about 500 newspapers around the world. What does he do with those five hundred? They negotiate with the parties in power for their capital needs. Is Sri Lanka any different from that?
It’s exactly the same. Then what happens to journalists who stand up for the truth. They have to collide with the needs of the employer. They have to choose whether to stay or leave. Although society expects an answer to your question, the society does not believe.
The journalist has become a person in power who deceives the public, just like a politician. They have become privileged people.
Q – What are the barriers within the media industry in our country to fulfill the aforesaid responsibility and build trust?
A – Professional journalists have also become a part of this system. Let me give you an example I know. One journalist has a conflict with media ownership. He goes home and tells his children and wife that he can no longer do this job, he’s leaving.
Then the children run and hug the luxury car given to him by the institution under the loan facility. “Please Dad, then we’ll lose this.”
He continues to work for the company. He continues to do what his conscience is against.
This system encourages people to do it this way. Sacrifice their journalism for their own survival. To stay passive. But we see how certain sections of the youth are taking responsibility over this and allowing the society to see the truth.
They dive deep into the issue. I watch a lot of TV discussions. All the issues are muddled in these discussions. I mean, there are people who work to overcome this barrier, or people who work for the truth despite the barrier. And also, there are people who have been engulfed by the barrier. That is the situation today.
Q – What are your suggestions for journalists to overcome this major hurdle and other hardships to fulfill their responsibilities and elevate the media industry?
A – I’m sorry if you find my answer a bit pessimistic. I do not even want to care about the word responsibility. As a filmmaker, I do not think it is my responsibility to see the truth. I think it’s my job. Griffith, who is considered the father of cinema, said that my job is to make you see.