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Opinion: Traffic, Bills, & Protests

April 17, 2009

By Abbi

In the comments to “See no Tigers”, Macleans’ Michael Petrou takes the Ottawa Citizen to task for photo cutlines that refer to the “alleged genocide” of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Below you will find posted comments by Michael Petrou and Drew Gragg (of the Ottawa Citizen). Our questions to both are below and follow their comments.

Drew Gragg:

Mike, I wasn’t at the protest, but I’ve reviewed the 15 pictures posted on our site. I have to conclude that to say virtually every protester waved a Tiger flag or wore a Tiger shirt is not accurate. References to the Tamil Tigers are in the third and fourth paragraphs in the print edition story. They appear in other places in the various online versions we posted.

Michael Petrou:

Hi Drew,

I was at the protest and stand by my description of it. Indeed, it’s possible to find at least one and usually many Tamil Tiger flags or banners or t-shirts in every one of the 15 photos you posted. Your stories do mention the Tamil Tigers in the context of the war in Sri Lanka but say nothing about support for the Tigers among the protesters. Finally, your photo cutlines refer to the “genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka” as if such an alleged genocide is an established fact. Is this really the Citizen’s position?

Best wishes,

Michael

Drew Gragg:

There were many Tiger flags & shirts, granted. And it’s true, the story did not address the implications of the emblem of a terrorist organization appearing on city streets. The Citizen is a daily newspaper, and we covered this event late in the news cycle as a traffic disruption, which for our readers was the overriding concern.
Of course, the protesters’ position is not the Citizen’s position. Of course the photos are not staged. We have taken a lot of heat for actually using the word terrorist over the last few years. It’s novel to be denying charges like these.

Our Response:

Have you even bothered investigating this “alleged genocide,” or is the world only going to “cry” over it after the fact?

Why don’t you guys do some real journalism and look into that claim instead of putting quotes around everything you’re too lazy to investigate further?

Or, are you going to argue this is something that doesn’t interest your readers? Protesters clogging traffic is way up on my scale of life’s roadblocks too. I can’t imagine what I would do if confronted with such hardship.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2009/02/15/genocide_in_sri_lanka/

Why don’t you interview Bruce Fein and get a copy of that 1000 page model 12 count indictment of genocide and see if there’s any truth to the “alleged genocide”?

And hey, even if you conclude there’s no genocide…when will you actually cover the story of thousands of CANADIAN citizens who have relatives caught in a war zone and haven’t heard from them in months and don’t know if they’re dead or alive?

When will you cover the story of Canadian citizens, many of whom are blue collar workers and struggling to make ends meet, who have to send money back home to take care of grandparents and other relatives who have been injured in this conflict and now have no arms or legs?

When will you cover the story of extortion by paramilitaries aligned with the Sri Lankan government (there are separate extortion rates depending on whether it’s a male or a female living in the Diaspora)?

Btw, you do know that international organizations have accused the Sri Lankan government of abducting children to fight as well? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6144200.stm

They are citizens right? Or, are they just “Tamils” now?

Oh wait, I forgot — traffic is more important.

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