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The inadequacy of Western media theory in third world internal conflicts : the case of military censorship in Sri Lanka
conference contributionposted on 2006-01-01, 00:00 authored by Howard Frederick, C De Alwis
Research on media production and on media effects under military censorship has centred primarily on cross-border conflicts being waged by Western regimes. There is a noticeable void in understanding internal conflicts, particularly so within the Asian region. To help address this lacuna, we content-analyse Sri Lankan newspaper samples of two critical military campaigns within the Sri Lankan separatist conflict to gain insight into an Asian internal conflict within the context of military censorship and culture. We discover that supposedly stringent censorship regulations and the rules of the official communication systems have almost no effect on Sri Lankan newspapers, which demonstrate a unique talent to circumvent these strictures. During these bloody internal conflicts, the Sri Lankan press enjoyed freedom of expression, flaunted social responsibility and their watchdog instincts, and, most interestingly for us, demonstrated the failure of the Western propaganda model and other theoretical perspectives. The importance of understanding cultural dimensions before theorizing media behaviour in order to obtain a more rational understanding of the sociology of media is posited by this study. We conclude with discussion of a new model of media censorship which has more relevance in Asian internal conflicts.