There seems to be no end to the much dreaded `white van` operations against the media. The latest victim is journalist Krishni Ifham, wife of one of The Island staffers. She was waylaid near her residence in Wattala on Wednesday morning, bundled into a white van and taken all the way to Kandy. She was interrogated on her professional work for hours before being released in the evening.
Journalists are not an infallible lot. There are serious allegations against some of them. The government insists that terrorists had some media persons on their payroll. (But, it won`t substantiate its claim!) INGOs and NGOs have heavily infiltrated the Sri Lankan media and made handmaidens of some journalists to further their sinister interests. Therefore, if there are complaints against media personnel, they must be interrogated and, if needs be, even prosecuted and punished. Why should extra judicial methods be used to deal with them?
The government may deny its involvement in Wednesday`s incident but nobody is going to believe it. Who will dare abduct a woman in Wattala and take her all the way to Kandy passing so many army and police checkpoints, unless they have the blessings of the powers that be? None of the abductors freely moving about in white vans like the brainwashed `Dogs` of Ivan the Terrible who rode black horses has yet been nabbed.
If `white vans` are operating without the knowledge of the government, as it claims, the situation is all the more frightening. If that really is the case, then the government must make an all out effort to apprehend the white van Mafiosi for its own sake more than the safety of journalists. For, those capable of carrying out such criminal acts with impunity must be running a parallel government. (They may even take over the country at this rate!)
But, the government has unfortunately taken the white van menace for granted. For a government that hunted down Prabhakaran and his confederates, tracking down the `white van` operators must be child`s play. The fact that it does not care to do so is indicative of its connivance, if not direct involvement in the violent campaign against the media.
Now that the war is over, it is incumbent upon the government to stop tilting at windmills and take immediate steps to facilitate the demilitarisation process if people are to benefit from the defeat of terrorism. Opening a front against the media is not the way to set about it. A cabal of hoity-toity elements exuding hubris and anti-media venom seems to be hell bent on eliminating democratic dissent under the pretext of anti-terror operations. They are only engaged in a self-defeating exercise.
The only way the government could clear its name is to investigate attacks on media persons and bring the perpetrators to justice without further delay. Let no lame excuses be trotted out!