We are shocked to hear the Mumbai Press Club’s announcement conferring its “Life time Achievement Award” upon Mr. N. Ram, who had headed the Hindu group as its Editor – in – Chief and MD, on a par with the veteran journalist Mr. Kuldip Nayar. It is more appalling to know that the selection committee is aware of the fact that Mr. N. Ram was a recipient of the Sri Lankan government’s “Sri Lanka Ratna” award in 2005.
We would like to bring to the kind attention of journalists who uphold to the high standards of their profession and to the intellectual community a few grim facts that would oblige them and the members of the select committee to reconsider this decision.
Mr. N. Ram in his two decade long career was not as much of an unbiased editor or journalist as many presume it to be. He was an unabashed supporter of the genocidal Sri Lankan regime in its ruthless war against the LTTE, which finally ended in the mass killing of 1,40,000 innocent Tamil civilians. In his enthusiasm to support the Sri Lankan regime he had no qualms to resort to the extreme of criticizing the international community. The following opinion penned in “The Guardian” parroting the Sri Lankan regime’s version of the final weeks of the civil war, as “the biggest hostage rescue operation” will attest to it:
“In my opinion, the international – and especially west European – response has got it wrong on two counts. There has been a tendency to mechanically balance responsibility for the crisis, and therefore to equate the desperate, last-ditch actions of an extremist organisation – banned or designated as terrorist by some 30 countries including India – with the responses of a legitimate government. Second, justice has not been done to Mahinda Rajapaksa's government for its astonishing feat of rescuing by military means close to 275,000 civilians who were, in the view of the whole world, confined by the Tigers for use as a human shield.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/01/sri-lanka-prabhakaran-tamil-tigers)
The international community is well aware of the fact that during those final weeks of the war the Sri Lankan government had deliberately fired heavy weapons and dropped cluster bombs in the “no fire zones” which it had instructed the 3,00,000 Tamil civilians to move into to avoid being attacked erroneously as militants. This has been well documented in the two reports commissioned by the UN, “Report of SG’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka” in March 2011 also known as the “Darusman Report” and in the “Report of the SG’s Internal Review Panel on United Nations Actions in Sri Lanka” in November 2012, also known as the “Petrie Report”.
In the aftermath of the war Tamil IDPs were herded into what the government called “relief camps” which many INGO workers and international observers compared in disgust to the Nazi internment camps. The then Chief Justice of Sri Lanka Mr. Sanath N. Silva himself condemned these camps publicly in the following words: “Vanni IDPs sheltered in transit centres in Cheddikulam cannot expect justice under the Sri Lanka’s law. Law of the country does not show any interest on these IDPs. I openly say this. The authorities can penalize me for telling this.”
In spite of this Mr. N. Ram unabashedly praised these camps after visiting them on a Sri Lankan government sponsored visit in his article entitled “Visiting the Vavuniya IDP camps: an uplifting experience” as follows: “The last phase of Sri Lanka’s low-intensity military conflict saw the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a military force. It simultaneously witnessed a poignant human drama in which some 300,000 Tamil civilians were rescued by force of arms … Following a three-hour conversation, including a recorded interview, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa at ‘Temple Trees’ in Colombo, I had, at his suggestion and thanks to the helicopter and other facilities provided by the Defence Ministry, the opportunity of seeing for myself how the Tamil IDPs were being sheltered and cared for in the camps. It was an uplifting experience…” (Italics added).
What the international community and the UN observers condemned as war crimes and amounted to genocide, the pen of Mr. N. Ram transformed to a “low intensity military conflict” (which had cost 1,40,000 innocent lives) and the condition of the Tamil IDPs in internment camps became an “an uplifting experience”. No journalist or editor true to the ethics and high standards of his profession will dare to do what Mr. N. Ram has done.
The Sri Lankan regime has been singled out as “deadly” for journalists by four international non – governmental organizations monitoring the media: Committee to Protect Journalists, International Press Institute, Reporters Sans Frontieres and International Federation of Journalists. But we find not a single condemnation of the deterioration of press freedom in Sri Lanka from the pen of Mr. N. Ram. We can point innumerable instances of transgression of journalistic ethics from the pages of “The Hindu” and the editorial space of Mr. N. Ram on various issues.
In light of the above mentioned facts (more instances abound on various other issues including Muslims and Dalits) we request the Mumbai Press Club to reconsider its decision to confer its praiseworthy award upon Mr. Ram. Conferring such a reputable honor upon him along with the truly honorable Mr. Kuldip Nayar will bring disgrace on the institution and the profession. We request all the journalists of the country who hold the ethics of the profession to their hearts and the intellectual community and activists to sign this petition and save the face of a commendable profession.
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