The inadequacy of Western media theory in third world internal conflicts : the case of military censorship in Sri Lanka
Frederick, Howard H. and De Alwis, Chandrika K. 2006, The inadequacy of Western media theory in third world internal conflicts : the case of military censorship in Sri Lanka, in IAMCR 2006 : Proceedings of the 25th Conference & General Assembly of the International Association for Media and Communication Research 2006, IAMCR, [Cairo, Egypt], pp. 1-24.
IAMCR 2006 : Proceedings of the 25th Conference & General Assembly of the International Association for Media and Communication Research 2006
International Association for Media and Communication Research Conference
Place of publication
The literature of communication and conflict is long and deep. However, it has focused primarily on cross-border conflict in the northern hemisphere. Not much academic research has been done on intra-state conflicts in general or on Asian conflicts in particular. This research on the Sri Lankan separatist conflict contributes towards filling this void.Newspaper reports in three languages on Operation Jayasikurui (1997) as well as on the capture of Elephant Pass (2000) were analyzed by trained coders with high reliability. In-depth interviews were conducted with Sri Lankan journalists and military personnel who participated in these incidents. Triangulation sources include Sri Lanka Army materials and the Sri Lanka Government Gazette.
Results clearly show that despite stringent governmental regulations, censorship had no effect on these Sri Lankan newspapers, which employed unique cultural techniques to circumvent these restrictions. Despite their apparent divergent ethnic backgrounds, all newspaper samples are consensual in their depiction of the conflict all the time while managing to set different agendas for their individual readerships. Media regulations could not impose censorship as proposed by Western theoretical constructs. Results show no correspondence between media samples and imposition of government or military policy. The press enjoyed freedom to convey war information to the public and exhibited a distinct streak of social responsibility in their watchdog instincts.Dominant Western propaganda models and theoretical perspectives do not apply to the Sri Lankan context. Understanding the cultural dimensions is essential before theorizing on media behaviour. No particular theoretical framework from the literature could be used to make inferences. One further interesting finding suggested from this research: Internal conflict within the Asian region may have its own unique theoretical perspective. The study concludes by proposing an alternative model.
Field of Research
160503 Communications and Media Policy 200199 Communication and Media Studies not elsewhere classified