Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Deafening Silence

After the May 30 screening by ABC TV's Four Corners program of A Bloody Business, on Australia's brutal live cattle trade to Indonesia, the mainstream media gave ample voice to our collective revulsion for weeks afterwards.

By contrast, after Four Corners' July 4 screening of The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, showing the mass slaughter (and worse) of some 40,000 defenceless Tamil civilians at the hands of the Sri Lankan military... nothing!

Not a whisper from Fran Kelly on Radio National's Breakfast program next day. Nothing in The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age. Nothing in the Murdoch press.

Today? Again, nothing on Radio National except for an item on PM (Alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka under the microscope). Nothing in the Murdoch press.

And the best the Sydney Morning Herald could do was this blink-and-you'd-miss-it item on page 7:

"New footage of the Sri Lankan Army allegedly executing naked and bound prisoners and raping and murdering Tamil women has prompted the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd*, to call for a re-examination of the final stages of the civil war there. Labelling the footage - watched by almost 600,000 Australians on ABC Television's Four Corners on Monday night - as 'profoundly disturbing', Mr Rudd urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to revise a 2009 resolution praising the war's outcome. Local and international media were prevented from covering the 2009 campaign to eliminate the Tamil Tigers. Monday night's footage, by Britain's Channel Four, showed unarmed people being shot dead by Sri Lankan soldiers, who could be heard joking." (Sri Lanka war rethink urged, Dylan Welch)

The following 2 letters also appeared on the Herald's letters page:

"The morning after Four Corners depicted the mistreatment of cattle in Indonesia there was a national outrage, led by our politicians. On Monday night Four Corners showed the systematic slaughter, mutilation, torture, rape and execution of civilians in Sri Lanka. Much of the worst was filmed by the perpetrators themselves in gory celebration. And this morning there is silence." Gary Stowe, Springwood

"Recently the federal government suspended the live export of cattle to Indonesia after Four Corners exposed the mistreatment of said cattle. Will the federal government now expedite the applications of Sri Lankan refugees who came out of this horror, instead of sending them back as they did 2 years ago?" Denise Thorpe, Wentworth Falls

And this on the letters page of The Age:

"The footage (Four Corners, ABCTV, 4/7) showing war crimes by the Sri Lankan military was the most disturbing piece of television I have ever seen. The Australian government has a moral responsibility to push for these crimes to be brought to account in the International Criminal Court. It also puts our pathetic debate on asylum seekers into grim and meaningful perspective." Daniel Price, Frankston South

How to account for the near deafening silence of the ms media following the screening of this searing documentary? How to account for a real concern over the slaughter of cattle, but a seeming indifference over the slaughter of human beings? I'd love another explanation, of course, but when all is said and done, I can't help asking: Is it because they're brown?

[* "We, the Foreign Ministers of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Commomwealth of Australia, reaffirm our continuing commitment to work together to combat people smuggling, the financing of terrorism and related organised criminal activities... Australia welcomes the end of the conflict situation that prevailed for over two and a half decades in some parts of Sri Lanka..." Joint Ministerial Statement, 9/10/09]

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