Media spin and war reporting

More than 120 people packed into a seminar "Media complicity: reporting Gaza and Sri Lanka 2009" on May 27 at the University of Technology.

The meeting was hosted by Wendy Bacon from the Centre for Independent Journalism and co-sponsored by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. Given the topic, the Tamil community made up about half the audience.

The panellists were Jake Lynch from the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Anthony Lowenstein, author of My Israel Question and Peter Cave from ABC radio's The World Today.

Lynch, a former BBC reporter, said Sri Lanka's media ban had a big impact on attitudes towards the war.

He also took issue with the reporting style of war correspondents who use neutralising language, such as "collateral damage".

Lowenstein criticised the media's tendency to put "equal signs" between the two sides in any war. He also criticised the bias of those journalists who do not bother to report both sides.

As an example of media bias he cited Matt Wade's piece in the May 5 Sydney Morning Herald on the alleged recruitment of child soldiers by the Tamil Tigers.

Many Tamils questioned the panel about why the establishment media had not reported their hunger strikes, rallies, vigils and car cavalcades.

The meeting closed with Tamil activist Dr Sam Pari who launched a new statement calling on the Rudd government to pressure the Sri Lankan government to abide by international humanitarian law.

To sign the "Crisis in Sri Lanka" statement visit http://www.srilankancrisis.com.

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