Channel 4 refutes Sri Lankan "propaganda offensive"
Channel 4 has today taken the unprecedented step of publishing a detailed refutation of “an international propaganda offensive” launched by supporters of the Sri Lankan government against its reporting of events at the end of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war. Channel 4’s News and Current Affairs journalists have led the way in exposing the country’s war crimes, culminating in the broadcast of the feature length documentary No Fire Zone - a forensic investigation into the final weeks of the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka.
In November 2013, Prime Minister, David Cameron, called for an independent investigation into the events at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war after viewing the ‘truly shocking’ footage that features in No Fire Zone. Next month (March 2014), the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva will consider calls for the creation of an International Commission of Inquiry into all the crimes committed in the final months of the war.
But now, in an attempt to discredit Channel 4 and suppress legitimate reporting of these war crimes, supporters of the Sri Lankan government have produced a 222 page propaganda book called Corrupted Journalism: Channel 4 and Sri Lanka which has been distributed widely around the world to diplomats, journalists and academics. The authors of Corrupted Journalism remain anonymous and the source of its funding is a mystery.
To counter this misleading attack on its journalism, Channel 4 has taken the unusual step of publishing a detailed 20,000 word rebuttal titled The Uncorrupted Truth.
The booklet is authored by the director of Channel 4’s Sri Lanka films, BAFTA and Grierson nominee Callum Macrae. Macrae is a distinguished journalist who has won many awards from industry bodies including the Royal Television Society, The Association of International Broadcasters, Amnesty and several others.
He has also won two of the United States' most prestigious television journalism awards, The Peabody and the Columbia Dupont Awards, and for two years running has been ranked by Broadcast Magazine as one of the top three directors in the UK.
Channel 4 Head of News and Current Affairs, Dorothy Byrne said: “Corrupted Journalism is a scurrilous piece of work which misleads the public. That is why we decided to publish this full and detailed response, answering every allegation in careful and meticulous detail. In contrast to the authors and funders of this spurious nonsense who have chosen to remain anonymous, Channel 4 stands proudly behind the outstanding journalism in No Fire Zone.”
Engage Sri Lanka’s Corrupted Journalism was described by Macrae, as an “irresponsible, inaccurate and misleading attack on our journalism. A work notable as much for its failure to confront any of the serious allegations we make of massacres, crimes against humanity and torture, as for the inaccuracy of the criticisms it levels against us. It is perhaps no wonder that they chose to do this from behind a cloak of anonymity"
No Fire Zone tells the story of how, in 2009, following a 26-year civil war, the government of Sri Lanka launched a major final offensive against the rebel forces of the Tamil Tigers. The government declared a series of what they called “no fire zones”, encouraged Tamil civilians to gather in them, and then targeted them, shelling indiscriminately and denying adequate food and medicine to those trapped within. The Tigers too stand accused committing war crimes, using child soldiers and suicide bombings. They also prevented civilians from escaping the no fire zones – although the vast majority of civilians who died, did so as a result of government shelling. At the end of the war a series of further war crimes by government soldiers saw executions of naked blindfolded prisoners and acts of sexual violence.
It was supposed to be a war without witness. But there were witnesses and they filmed the appalling events. These witnesses included both victims and perpetrators: including government soldiers who filmed these crimes as grotesque war trophies. That evidence has been carefully investigated and authenticated by the team behind the Channel 4 films.
The Government of Sri Lanka insists the video evidence of war crimes is faked. However, Channel 4’s reporting is corroborated by United Nations investigations and reports by independent NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Notes To Editors
The Uncorrupted Truth can be seen at: http://issuu.com/theuncorruptedtruth/docs/the_uncorrupted_truth
or on these websites
- Channel 4 ‘s Sri Lanka’s Killing Field http://www.channel4.com/programmes/sri-lankas-killing-fields
- Channel 4 News: http://www.channel4.com/news/sri-lanka-civil-war
- No Fire Zone Website – http://nofirezone.org/
Corrupted Journalism produced by supporters of the Sri Lankan government can be seen here: http://www.corruptedjournalism.com
Engage Sri Lanka can be seen here: http://engagesrilanka.com
COMPREHENSIVE BACKGROUND TO THE PROPAGANDA BOOK AND CHANNEL 4’S REBUTTAL
Channel 4’s coverage of the last period of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war – though Channel 4 News, its two documentaries in the Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields series and the feature documentary No Fire Zone - provoked an unparalleled international response.
Cited approvingly by the UN, praised by the Prime Minister and the recipient of several of the industry’s top awards, the Channel’s journalism has been credited with transforming the world’s awareness of these terrible crimes. It was seen to have set the agenda for the controversial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2013 and previously even saw Macrae and his team nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the film-makers have come under extreme pressure from Government supporters. Macrae was the target of a series of death threats when he said he was travelling to Sri Lanka to cover CHOGM – and the Channel 4 News team he travelled with were subjected to a series of orchestrated demonstrations by government supporters.
The films were also the subject of over 100 complaints to the UK’s independent broadcasting regulatory body, Office of Communications (OFCOM) ( including from Engage Sri Lanka) which appear to have been orchestrated by government supporters. After lengthy investigations every single complaint was rejected.
“We hope that with the publication of our detailed response to their complaints, the Sri Lankan will finally stop attacking the messenger, and start confronting the uncomfortable – and uncorrupted - truth of our journalism,” said Macrae.
Last November, Engage Sri Lanka – whose website says its mission is to promote trade between the UK and Sri Lanka - published their hefty 222 page book, Corrupted Journalism: Channel 4 and Sri Lanka.
The book professes to demonstrate in considerable detail that Channel 4’s journalism was unfair, inaccurate, biased and shoddy. Engage Sri Lanka and its offshoot, Sri Lanka Media Watch are mysterious organisations which appear to have only an online existence on two websites and a Twitter address which sparks into life whenever there are broadcasts or publications which are critical of the Government of Sri Lanka.
Engage Sri Lanka clearly has significant financial backing – but there is no indication of where this comes from. Unlike Channel 4 which is a regulated and licensed public service broadcaster which produces an audited annual report each year, Engage Sri Lanka’s finances, backers, office bearers and authors are anonymous. Readers cannot tell when reading Corrupted Journalism if this organisation’s financial, political or other considerations have influenced the writing.