A discourse analysis by Sri Lankan journalists
Sri Lanka was mired in a civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the armed forces of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) for more than two decades. The many attempts for dialogue between the two ethnic communities during the war and after its end in 2009 failed to bring reconciliation. With the new government in place since January 2015, hopes are high that reconciliation will finally blossom. It is assumed that the quality of media coverage will play a vital role in this process.

The report at hand is a summary of the main findings of a discourse analysis that investigated the scope and nature of media coverage of reconciliation issues in Sri Lankan newspapers. Under the supervision of MiCT experts, a mixed group of 16 Tamil and Sinhalese journalists examined all articles related to reconciliation in 9 Sri Lankan newspapers during the month of February 2016. Coverage in that time slot included the visit of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in Sri Lanka, the singing of the national anthem in Tamil and Sinhalese language during the Independence Day ceremony on 4 February 2016, as well as a number of smaller events related to the topic. Unsurprisingly, the results of the analysis confirm that newspapers differ significantly in their assessment of events. However, a huge overlap in the selection of topics demonstrates that there are shared interests between the Tamil and Sinhalese media which might provide common grounds for dialogue.

In addition, the findings strongly suggest that differences between nationalist and government-supporting Sinhalese media are more far-reaching than differences between Tamil and Sinhalese media. Generally speaking, the analysts found a high number of articles related to reconciliation in the newspapers monitored and thus concluded that reconciliation, after many years of silence and neglect, has finally arrived to the centre of public attention on both sides.