Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Citizen Journalism in Sri Lanka

May 21st, 2009 · 2 Comments

The Sri Lankan government is sadly adept at squelching journalism, which makes the crowdsourced Groundviews a truly precious gem. Proudly calling itself “Sri Lanka’s first and only citizens journalism website,” Groundviews provides a rare English-language peek at the mood on Colombo’s streets. The site has been in peak form as the nation’s civil war has drawn to its bloody close, providing a series of posts examining Sri Lanka’s post-Tigers future. Of particular note is this sobering take on President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory speech to Parliament:

Somewhere I hoped that this speech would signal a new chapter, a transformation in this Government that they wanted to begin a post-war phase. Instead the language of the War on Terror found its place once more. The President declared that the term ‘minorities’ is no longer part of the vocabulary of Sri Lanka. I don’t think he was speaking about the idea of each of the major communities being a nation or people in their own right. Instead, he continued there are only two peoples – those who love their country [read those supported the war] and those who “have no love for the land of their birth.” Essentially those who fail to gather around Government holding the national flag are classified as unpatriotic. So for a moment think of the Tamil family who has lost one member to the recent fighting, in a camp not allowed to leave and are not in a state of mind to choose to be patriotic. Those others who do not love their country according to this rule of patriotism must also include the dissenting media, opposition political parties and critical NGOs. So it unclear if there will be an end to the culture of fear, intimidation and violence by ‘unknown groups.’

Groundviews has a sister video channel here; it’s well worth your time even if your Sinhalese or Tamil language skills are negligible.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Captured Shadow

    Thanks for this link, it is interesting to see more first-hand information in English. In my experience there are way too many people in Colombo that are totally out of touch with the eastern and northern sides of the country. They only learn about the other areas through biased newspapers and weak TV programs. So it would be nice to have similar sites for people specifically from Batticoloa and Jaffna. Not that the people in the East and North are better informed but they don’t have the policy impact that the folks in the capitol do. It amazed me how many people in Colombo had never been to even Trincomalee and vice versa. The people in the east had no idea how much better the infrastructure was in the west and the westerners had no idea how many commercial opportunities were available in the east. Now, if internet access could be as easy as mobile phone access this kind of journalism could take off.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Captured Shadow: Many thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    There is a little Tamil/Sinhalese language content on the site, but it’s pretty sparse. I’m actually trying to seek out some English-language reporting from the East; I’m interested in how the post-war reconstruction is going over there. (I’ve read some negative stuff in mainstream media, but could really use some on-the-ground perspective.)

    Not sure what the deal is in Sri Lanka, but in my travels in India’s distant corners (esp. the North-East), I was struck by the continuing reliance on dial-up in Internet cafes–and unreliable dial-up at that. Not sure if there’s a coherent national strategy to roll out broadband, or if it’s a state-by-state responsibility. If it’s the latter, the poorer provinces obviously lose out, and fall even further behind.

    Anyone working on cheap satellite access?

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