One must question hate speech…!

Earlier this month, there was a news report in the Sri Lankan media about the Koneswaram Temple, which is mentioned in textbooks as a historical place. The report said that it is the Gokanna Viharaya in Trincomalee that has now been turned into a Hindu Kovil as Thirukoneswaram Temple. Since then it has become the talk of most Tamil media. The Tamil people began to react on websites and social media regarding this.
The news was presented in all media as one of the biggest lies in history. Beyond that there were lots of racist and hate speech on social media. Criticisms of it to this day are being written with fury, as one foreshadowing history.
The person who expressed the opinion was an academic who is also a clergyman. Without taking any of his social status into consideration many had expressed racial hostility towards him.To such an extent that the matter had psychologically created a state of hatred of racism in the minds of the Tamil Hindus.
This news is also likely to have a major impact on people’s beliefs and choices during the election period.This is because various Tamil politicians have since reacted to this by proposing racism in such a way as to suggest that the characteristics of the dominant race tend to destroy the history of the minority race. Some took it as a joke, though.
In that sense, the Tamil side is firmly refuting this news as untrue and historically wrong.Based on this, the SaivaMahaSabai and the Board of Trustees of the Koneswaram Temple issued statements quoting various historical sources.Some of the politicians even called for a public debate on the matter.
In this case, first of all, the journalist should ascertain whether the argument was originally put forward as fact or as an opinion? When someone makes a claim that creates confusion, that person should be asked ‘Is this your personal opinion?’ Journalists must question the authenticity and ask for the source of proof and attach such information to the report. The journalist with the knowledge on the subject should ask many more questions and establish whether it’s an opinion or a factual information and inform the public about it.
‘Expressing such ideas in public and publicizing them in the media only serves to reinforce inter-ethnic tensions,’ said Dr. S. Raguram, Head – Department of Media Studies, University of Jaffna. He further says:
“Such news is false historical information.Yet depending on the person who says it and the place it is being told, it becomes news.The person who said this is not an ordinary person. He is a key figure in the task force created by the President to protect archaeological sites. Not only that, he is also an expert on archaeology.So this becomes an interesting news for the public.When such historical misinformation is presented by a person of that caliber, racist skepticism develops among Tamils. The message goes without saying that people need to be careful about their actions in the future about that party. That is the only benefit people get by publishing this in the media.The refutation to this type of news should be written in Sinhala newspapers with historical facts. We need to create opportunities for the Sinhalese to get the real facts. Repeated refutation written only in Tamil only sets the stage for reinforcement of racist prejudices in the minds of the Tamil people”, he said.
None of the Sinhala newspapers gave prominence to this news at all. A few articles were published in English. There may be political reasons for spreading such a divisive message during the election period. The Rev. Thero and the media played a major role in creating a situation in which people are trapped and reacted violently on social media.
In the days that followed, the news was published in a particular newspaper with the opinion of a historian and a professor next to it. The title of the news was as follows: ‘Those who do not know the history should not open their mouths’. The first headline of this news item was ‘…. Thero uttering nonsense’.Similarly, if you look at the headlines in the local and foreign Tamil media, they have mocked the claim and created a mood that makes people hate the person who made that comment and the community he belonged to.
Most Tamils feel that this news has hurt the feelings of Hindus living in Sri Lanka.Incidents like this that distort history have been going on for a long time, not just yesterday. Incidentally retrieved opinions and historical articles are circulating on the websites. At the same time there are arguments in the media from time to time as to whether the Sinhalese or the Tamils or the Muslims are original citizens of Sri Lanka. Only opinions are being shared more than any factual data examining this historical antiquity.Those opinions are also expressed in a way to aggrandize the race they belong to and belittle others. We can consider this as the continuation of hate speeches. So once a message is revealed it does not end there. This is a good example of how messages that create emotional animosity are constantly appearing in people’s minds in different ways.
“When we talk about the history it is important to delve deep into the subject.When we look at the history of Sri Lanka, we must first understand that Sinhala and Buddhism were not intertwined as they are now.History has it that there were also Tamil Buddhists. The reason for such historical errors is that we try to interpret that culture as ‘Sinhala Buddhism’ bound together with their race. But these myths need to be explored only with religious culture. Despite knowing the history, we could see the tendency of some to destroy the past history when they want to write about the future,”says P. Pusparatnam, Professor of History, University of Jaffna.
At the same time the importance of the message is diminished when it is headlined as ‘he does not know the truth that is known to everyone’.It is inconceivable that the archaeologist did not know the historical truth.
If it is believed that this may be an activity with a planned political background the journalist should ask further questions. By the answers to those extra questions the journalist will be able to identify whether he is trying to hide the history or it is his own opinion.
Ordinary people reacting with hate speech insulting, ridiculing and showing hostilities to a race is one thing but the comments that led to this reaction are not trivial. All comments and opinions that lead to hate for a race, a religion or a group can be considered as Hate speech. It’s a psychological conceptualization.
If this hate speech is to be curtailed, journalists must repeatedly ask various questions in connection with it. Such as:
What are you trying to convey?
Can I take what you say as anti-…………… community or this ……. race?
What are the reasons for you to say this?
Do you have any proof for what you say?
Your answers are more of opinions than facts. What do you say about that?
The foreign media had tried something in this regard.
Accordingly, ‘the fact that Koneswaram Temple is one of the most famous historical sites mentioned in many places’ what do you say to that? When asked, he replied very lightly, ‘Later everyone adapted it to suit themselves’.
This is not a responsible answer but it does suggest that he is slipping away from authentic sources.
Through a series of questions like these one can also ascertain whether he has any other political motives.

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