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Not a good job for a girl

August 2, 2011

When I said I wanted to be a journalist my mother went pale. In every conversation she had with my teenage self she tried to dissuade me. It was too dangerous, too unstable, too unsuitable for a girl – did I really want to be like Kate Adie, in flak jackets in all sorts of parts of the world?

Yes, of course I did. I thought her objections were traditional ones – of course a Tamil parent wants their child to be a doctor. If you are a girl, being a dentist is fine too – the hours are better and its easier to work part time. And if you really must, you could become an I.T. millionaire.

Last week Ganasundaram Kuhanathan, the editor of the Tamil language newspaper Udayan was badly beaten by men wielding iron bars in Jaffna. Lasantha Wickrematunge – a Singhalese, well connected, outspoken editor was murdered in 2009. His brother Lal is now getting threats from the president himself for writing about Chinese influence in Sri-Lanka.

Dozens of less august journalists have in past years disappeared. Sometimes their bodies are washed up on the island’s famed golden beaches.

I did become a journalist, and I’ve called my mother from Mogadishu, and from Darfur and Zimbabwe. She has never sounded that worried. As long as I’m not reporting from Sri-Lanka, I’m safe.


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