Tamils and the media's rape of truth

Issue 

When it comes to reporting on the situation for the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, with no reporters on the ground to witness the Sri Lankan Army's carnage, newspapers like the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald suddenly discover "reliable information" on what the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are up to!

Their source of information? The Sri Lankan government.

So what's new? Oppressed people everywhere, remember you have a second oppressor — newspaper editors who simply bleat what governments like that of Sri Lanka dish out to them.

Less work, less energy.

So what if it is not the "verified truth"? Time for a coffee, mate. Tamils and truth go hang.

This is how we end up with articles appearing simultaneously on the front pages of the Fairfax-owned Age and SMH regurgitating Sri Lankan government propaganda.

Without a mention of the horrific atrocities being committed by the SLA — which has killed more than 6500 civilians so far this year — the article printed in both papers reported SLA claims that the LTTE had been forcing children to fight against their will.

However, we do have some avenues of the "verified truth".

Reporters from Britain's Channel Four in Colombo managed to get into one of the barbed-wire enclosed detention camps set up by the SLA for Tamils they capture (or "liberate" as the SLA and loyal media put it). The reporters told tales of misery beyond endurance inflicted upon the "saved" Tamils.

Their video footage gave at least a hint of the horror in these camps.

Piecing together information from friends, relatives and eye-witnesses, Tamils living in Melbourne have arrived at some conclusions. Being a woman, I cite only one aspect (among the many) of the atrocities going on in the so called safety-camps of the "rescued Tamils".

Significant evidence exists the that following occurs in these camps:

• Tamil women are raped. Once again, Tamil women have become fair game for SLA soldiers to rape. The Red Cross testifies to previous examples of SLA soldiers raping Tamil women in the most brutal fashion.

They were raped in front of their families, grenades were put into their vaginas and they were blown up. The most horrible sharp instruments were inserted into them, tearing them up. Many other things too terrible to relate also occurred.

Gang rape was a common form of soldiers "recreation". During the ceasefire that began in 2004, which Sri Lanka tore up at the start of last year, such practices ended. But now they have started again.

It is a form of genocide to destroy the morale of a people through rape.

• The Tamil women in the camps are made to strip and parade in front of the soldiers. This is done under the pretext of "scrutinising" them for terrorist connections.

Other women will understand what that means. Old or young, all Tamil women are of interest to the trigger-happy soldiers — bursting with the pride at the power they exercise over these miserable lives.

• The soldiers have started molesting young children. While the parents are held behind barbed wire, children are taken away. Many are assaulted, raped and often killed. The parents can only wail and howl for their beloved children.

• Young men are also abused. Women and children are the most vulnerable in any conflict. But for Tamils in Sri Lanka, our young men are equally vulnerable. They disappear, and are raped and tortured.

But you don't read these stories on the front page of the Fairfax dailies. Only Sri Lankan government propaganda is deemed fit to print.

It is sad that the annihilation of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is of such little consequence to the international press. It is so committed to "truth above all, truth at any cost" that it spends precious space reporting with no evidence alleged LTTE actions to avoid telling the world what the SLA is doing.

We dare the Age and SMH to go and find out the truth — and return dignity to reporting, as well as a genuinely free press.

[Nesa Arumugam is a Tamil community leader in Melbourne.]