An eyewitness account from one of the [Sri Lankan government Tamil internment] camps is to be the centrepiece of an event we’re staging at the University of Sydney, titled, ‘Sri Lanka’s human rights emergency: how and why it is being hidden and what we can do about it’. That, and plans for an event at the Australian parliament in Canberra, have exposed us to another technique used in efforts to control the flow of information reaching the public, namely, flak. It’s familiar from the well-known ‘propaganda model’ conceived by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman to explain why the content of news, in commercial media, often seems so convenient to the rich and powerful. Flak works by “conditioning the media to expect trouble” whenever they take on corporate interests, Chomsky and Herman say (2), acting as a deterrent to any such endeavour.
Meeting the well-established concerns over Sri Lanka’s egregious record on press freedom, and the difficulty of access for journalists, the event is co-sponsored by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, based at the neighbouring University of Technology, Sydney. The ACIJ is researching the coverage in Australian media and, while results of the study won’t be released for a while, it’s expected to show that statements, interpretations and claims by the Sri Lankan government have predominated.
We do not, therefore, provide explicitly for representatives or supporters of the government to have their say: the events are, essentially, a way of bringing to wider attention important narratives of and testimonies from the conflict that have been – and continue to be – subjugated and suppressed.