This project set out to investigate journalism practice in post-colonial, post-conflict Sri Lanka. Earlier studies have theorised news selection and news production processes in western locations or in post-colonial developmental context and have, in the main, examined embedded journalism in the Middle Eastern war environment. This project focuses on the unique trilingual news reporting practices in a conflict transformation stage of an Asian island-nation that was entrenched in ethnic conflict for almost 30 years. Grounded on Anderson’s (1983) ‘imagined community’, and drawing on Asian philosophies as well as de-westernisation perspectives, the study ethnographically explored perceptions of Sri Lankan journalists embedded in the trilingual national press on their reporting role in a conflict transformation phase. Three communities of practice, namely, the journalistic community, the Asian research community and the text community, were located. In this sense, the project identified the cultural, scriptural, vernacular, linguistic and historical factors that seem to impact the unique trilingual journalism practice in Sri Lanka. The study also examined the content of trilingual news media in the post-conflict phase of nation- building to comparatively determine news coverage patterns and flows in the Tamil, Sinhala and English language print news media. In this sense, the study triangulated ethnographic observations and interviews with content analysis data to offer culture- specific and culture-rich insights into Sri Lankan news room practices and news reporting styles. The significance of the study lies in the axiological, epistemological and ontological differences in Asian communication patterns strongly swayed by the philosophies of Asia such as Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Generally, whilst displaying strong work ethics, national consciousness appears to direct the role of multi-ethnic Sri Lankan journalists who seem to work along with the aspirations of the masses irrespective of the language of production. Sri Lankan journalists tend to tread unsettled waters without fear and without too much splash. They appear to keep silent at times to adopt appropriate wisdom to disseminate appropriate knowledge at the appropriate time. Yet, each language stream tends to differ in the means and methods deployed to fashion and shape news content. This is neither peace nor war journalism. It is conflict transformation journalism functioning as the guardians of territorial integrity.
Submitted in the fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2015.