Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tamil Tiger Protest Nets Relatively Little News Coverage

I'm quite puzzled by the news coverage of a multi-day protest going on in Toronto that's become quite disruptive to traffic. The Tamils living in Toronto or the GTA started protesting a couple of months ago. Tens of thousands strong, they stood hand-in-hand peacefully protesting in front of Union Station and along other main streets for several hours before dispersing for the night. They did that about three times as I recall. The first time only CBC covered it, partly because they were right outside their studios.

It's really unusual for a protest here to have a 1,000 people never mind ten or almost fifty thousand. Still, they didn't get much coverage. CBC did several stories, and the Toronto Star had one front page story as I recall. They explained the reason for the protest, a little bit about what's going on in Sri Lanka that caused the Toronto Tamils to come out en masse in protest, but no explanation for why so many people would seemingly support a terrorist organization or if that was ever the case. There was also little interrogation of our federal politicians, especially our elusive Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on what they plan on doing about it, and if nothing, why nothing. As for our municipal politicians, nada.

And so Sunday night they started a peaceful protest in front of the US Consulate, which sits on a main artery in Toronto known as Hospital Row. They shut down the entire street and ambulances had to detour round to get to Sick Kids, Mt. Sinai, Toronto General Hospital, Princess Margaret (Cancer) Hospital, and Toronto Rehab. I was outraged that a protest would jeopardize people's lives like that, yet it warranted only a minor "see inside" blip on the Toronto Star's front page and stories way down in the newscasts on television. Excuse me?

Yesterday -- that's almost 72 hours after the protest began -- the police got
half of the street open for ambulances. The protest continues, with some minor scuffles. For the most part, it's been peaceful. And there has been NO front page coverage, NO top of the news stories on TV (after swine flu), NO in-depth explanations with chasing of politicians to find out what they plan to do. I find that extremely weird. Racism? This isn't a Canadian issue? These aren't real Canadians? Too much work to look into what would galvanize thousands to come out in multi-day protests? Too peaceful? I can't imagine any other protest for poverty or education or swimming pools or health care that were of this magnitude going this poorly reported.

The news organizations say their journalists are superior to bloggers and amateurs in covering the news because they can go in depth. Well, on top of precious little coverage of a huge-for-Canada protest, there's been precious little in depth reporting. I have questions. I get that the Toronto Tamils are asking first Canada (good luck) then US (more luck but need to be in US to get their attention) to intercede on behalf of the Tamil civilians caught between government troops and Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, but is it true that the protestors support the Tigers, a terrorist organization? Are the civilians caught in the middle true innocents or part of the Tiger movement? Why, if it's a terrorist outfit, would so many thousands come out in support? Is there intimidation? Or is it a mass movement based strictly on fear for relatives' lives? If they plan on protesting indefinitely, will University Avenue be half shut down indefinitely and why is that OK? Why is no, none, zippo politician, whether city or federal, getting involved? Why has the media not connected stories on Sri Lanka to this protest in order to give readers and viewers comprehensive coverage on this very sad situation? Why has the media not talked about what Canada has or has not done in Sri Lanka beyond the superficial (I seem to recall Canada sending people there awhile ago to talk about federalism; what happened to that)? And most of all why is the MSM so bored with the whole thing?

Well, I guess one of my questions was just answered. All of a sudden at 6:50 pm as I'm writing this, The Toronto Star has published a big story on the protest. It took violence to get it up there at the top of their web page. Apparently, the number of people, desperation of cause, length of protest does not a story make. Only violence. Pitiful.

1 comment:

Krupo said...

How prescient, considering what happened later in May...