Mudslinging and ‘cheap’ politics | Daily News

Mudslinging and ‘cheap’ politics

All mud slingers in the world and especially in Sri Lanka heard a very important piece of news last week about Indian Opposition Leader Rahul Gandhi’s sentence to two years in prison in a criminal defamation case. That was in India. What about Sri Lanka?

Almost all Sri Lankans sling mud on someone at some point and mudslinging is one of the key tactics used by social media activists and many politicians here in Sri Lanka. No matter who is at the receiving end, people sling mud at someone in order to tarnish the good image of that specific individual and gain various advantages by destroying someone’s character and reputation.

While social media networks freely dish out mud, some main stream media do the same knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe this is because of the low level of journalistic knowledge, ethics and legal knowledge of young ‘journalists’ who only vociferous and crave for cheap publicity and popularity. They sling mud because they do not have any other skills of capturing and winning the attention of an audience.

But it is not so when it comes to Sri Lankan social media users. They sling mud freely at anyone for anything without thinking twice or at least without checking the validity of facts, incidents, etc. Only very popular public figures go to courts and seek justice when they are subjected to mudslinging but it is not so when it comes to the ordinary people. They never go to courts and bear up all the humiliation done to them by others.

Sometimes the lives and families of innocent people who have not committed any crime or any other offence are totally destroyed due to the mudslinging campaigns launched by their enemies and strangers. There are instances when the children of such victims are forced to abandon their school education. Some family members of such victims have to say goodbye to their jobs. Some families are forced to abandon their homes built with great difficulties and relocate in some distant areas. Some rich families migrate because they do not have any other option.

The mud slingers do not stop there. They find out the whereabouts of their victims and start fresh mudslinging campaigns. Even a single slip of the tongue of a politician is ammunition for mud slingers to launch their mudslinging campaigns. Some unpopular political parties which do not have anything to claim as their services and projects totally depend on mudslinging. But now the Indian judiciary has taught a good lesson and opened the eyes of mudslingers all over the world.

Sri Lanka needs to amend the existing laws and introduce tougher laws against mudslingers because no one should be allowed to indulge in character assassination of another. We had criminal defamation laws but it was repealed in June 2002. The character of anyone matters to every individual. It takes decades to build a good reputation but it only takes a few seconds for mud slingers to destroy it.

There needs to be laws to protect innocent people from being ridiculed by others. Everybody has a reputation and values their self respect. Social media networks in Sri Lanka need to be regulated and it is a must. The required measures need to be taken by the Government or any other relevant authority to do this. It is because of the lack of laws to protect people’s privacy and reputation, the low literacy of social media users and especially due to the harmful information circulating through social media which can damage health, the security of people and sometimes the country, environment etc.

The freedom of expression of the people needs to be protected but priority should be given to the rule that says ‘My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins’. But it seems social media users and even some media institutions do not know this simple rule. First of all, the Government or the relevant authorities need to educate social media users and some so-called ‘journalists’ on this simple rule.

If Sri Lanka has laws similar to India, almost all social media users, journalists and politicians would be in prison by now considering their actions and behaviour witnessed by the country during the past few years. Here in Sri Lanka mud slingers do not even spare infants. The story about an infant abandoned and found inside a train toilet recently was highlighted out of proportion by social media and certain sections of the media and will be highlighted even in the future.

Monkeys should not be given sharp knives because they do not know how to use them. Animals’ rights do not apply here. What applies here is the safety of other animals and human beings. Here in Sri Lanka, social media is a sharp knife. There is no need to describe its users! The only difference is that they do not have tails. 

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