Friday, 6 February 2009

The YouTube Offensive: Sri Lanka vs. LTTE

The battle between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE takes place on land, air, sea and ............. on YouTube. Both sides to the conflict post videos that support their cause. The videos are either produced by media departments of the Sri Lankan Government or the LTTE or their respective supporters or third party videos, such as ones from Al Jazeera or Times Now which cover events favourable to the party posting the video.

Pro LTTE videos are targeted at the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. There are videos with visuals of LTTE cadres training or fighting, with songs eulogizing Eelam in the background, videos of LTTE fighting units such as the Charles Anthony Brigade, clips showing LTTE heroes such as Brigadier Balraj who died recently,
visuals of civilian casualties caused by Sri Lankan army shelling, videos of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora demonstrating their support for the LTTE and videos propagating the LTTE’s Eelam cause in general.

Prabhakaran’s Heroes Day address can be found on YouTube. You can see Prabhakaran reminiscing about the past and his friends. There are videos of the Black Tigers, women fighters of the LTTE, Sea Tigers, the Tamil Eelam Air Force and the Truth Tigers (LTTE cameramen who record fighting footage).

Sometime, pro-LTTE videos contain a message for others. Here’s a video of a Times Now broadcast posted by an LTTE supporter which conveys a request made to India by B. Nadesan, the political head of the LTTE, to repeal the ban on the Tamil Tigers. It claims the LTTE is a true friend of India and makes no mention of fighting the IPKF or assassinating Rajiv Gandhi.

Videos posted by the Sri Lankan Government’s media department tend to be of broadcasts from Sri Lankan TV stations and in Sinhalese. I assume these are addressed to the Sinhalese living outside Sri Lanka who don’t have easy access to Sri Lankan TV.

The LTTE’s media department does not issue videos in Sinhalese with a view to winning over the Sinhalese population and persuading them to agree to the LTTE demand for an Eelam. Neither does the Sri Lankan Government post videos in Tamil which could address the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora and persuade them to stop supporting the LTTE. The LTTE’s actions are perfectly understandable. Even if the LTTE were to post videos in Sinhala, it is unlikely to win over the Sinhalese. However, the Sri Lankan Government’s omissions don't make sense. As a democratically elected government which claims to represent all Sri Lankans, it has a duty to ensure that it’s point of view is conveyed to Sri Lankan Tamils. If the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora were to stop supporting the LTTE, the LTTE will not be able to sustain even a guerrilla campaign against the Sri Lankan army. For example, here’s a Sri Lankan army video which tries to show that the LTTE has been using civilians as human shields. This is in Sinhala. Why isn’t it in Tamil?

Here’s another which shows a LTTE child soldier named Ushanthini rescued by the Sri Lankan army. Ushanthini speaks in Tamil, but after a few sentences there is a voice-over in Sinhala. Why isn’t the entire video in Tamil?

Videos in Sinhala only preach to the converted. It is high time the Sri Lankan Government addressed this lacuna in its YouTube offensive and aimed its offensive at the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora.

Update: After I posted this article, I have noticed that many videos with English or Tamil commentary have been posted on Youtube, setting out the Sri Lankan government’s point of view. Well Done!

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