Background paper to a workshop on Citizen Journalism I’m organising in the near future. Full paper with references as a PDF from here.
Many less radical institutions – governments, NGOs, think tanks – are struggling to address the same challenge, unable to respond to the rapidly shifting balance of power between the individual and the institution radically disrupted by the Internet. In today’s ultra-networked world, an unaffiliated individual with a laptop and an Internet connection is often more influential and resourceful than an organization with a staff of twenty and a fax machine was only twenty years ago.
The overarching problems of a State riven by violent conflict, corruption, nepotism and the significant breakdown of democratic governance and human rights, especially in recent years, deeply inform the timbre of traditional media. It is a vicious symbiosis – traditional media is both shaped by and shapes a violent public imagination. The potential of Web 2.0 and new media in general and citizen journalism, mobile phones and USG in particular (e.g. YouTube videos, blogs, SMS and mobile sites) suggests that content that critiques the status quo, authored by civil society, can play a constructive and increasingly significant role in peacebuilding and stronger democratic governance in Sri Lanka. The renowned Columbia Journalism Review has an interesting short article on the power of citizen journalism even under repressive regimes. Blogging the Coup by Dustin Roasa notes,
The debate over citizen journalism in the U.S. tends to dwell, tediously, on whether citizen reporters can supplant, rather than complement, the professional press. But in many countries around the world, where the press is under government control, corrupt, or simply incompetent, citizen journalists may be the only source of information that is reasonably credible. Without citizen reporters in Myanmar, for instance, it would have been impossible to know what was happening during anti-government demonstrations last year, while in the Middle East, bloggers have become a viable alternative to the heavily censored, state-run media.
Citizen journalism on the web and Internet is seen in this short paper as a way through which all peoples of Sri Lanka, with something as basic as ownership of or access to a mobile phone, can hold to account the violence practiced by the Rajapakse regime, the LTTE, the TMVP and other armed groups in the country who policies and practices are inimical to democracy. Put simply, citizen journalism aims to be as much as a annoyance to them as they are to democratic governance. There are well over 300 blogs in English, Sinhala and Tamil now aggregated on www.kottu.org, Sri Lanka’s largest blog aggregation site. There is already a growing culture of vibrant debate on issues linked to governance, human rights, war and peace on the blogosphere that rivals the qualitative reportage in mainstream media (MSM). New voices on blogs like Dinidu de Alwis and Indi Samarajiva are speaking with a new voice, appealing to new audiences and capturing malleable minds of youth more familiar with web media than traditional print and electronic journalism.
Snapshot of bloggers in Sri Lanka
The emergence of Sri Lankan bloggers on the Blogosphere is also form of citizen journalism, as events are analysed and information disseminated from and to the public. For example, the analysis of events from popular bloggers like Deane’s Dimension, Indi and Dinidu De Alwis to name a few, have become a daily read for many involved and tuning into the blogosphere. The blog aggregator, Kottu.org, has a vast collection of Sri Lankan blogs which address political, economic, entertainment, security and technology topics related to the country, and thus has created a public forum for the collection of news and the re-interpretation as well as deconstruction of such news through the individual dogmatic blogger. Although contested as a positive attribute, by encouraging discussion and formulating ideas it allows for expression and narrows at some level the democratic deficit. This is particularly evident in sites such as Beyond Borders and In Mutiny, featuring high quality (English) content and debate, by youth, for youth.
Kottu, for example, features daily rants on theatre, art, poetry, IT, higher studies, puberty, pre-puberty blues, post-puberty blues, love, lack of love, social revolutions, peace, media, democracy, fascism, liberty, religion, music, ear rings, tattoos, books, reviews and a huge array of photos from Flickr that capture moments both private and public of the varied lives of bloggers. Blogs like Dare to be Different (run by a politician) jostle for attention with the Voices in My Head. From personal rants on the top 10 Extremists in Sri Lanka to more thoughtful analyses of Sri Lanka’s socio-political dynamics, Kottu’s collective voices offer far more food for thought than most mainstream media today. The voices are overwhelmingly young, vibrant and passionate. As Electra, a regular and one of the more eloquent bloggers in Sri Lanka points out:
“…but for what it’s worth, our opinions need to be out there, reaching out to a community larger than that which has access to and interest in the Sri Lankan blogosphere. More people need to see this. More people need to hear us.”
CJ and protracted violence
Protracted conflict, especially complex political emergencies and deep-seated ethnic and communal violence, pose significant challenges to communication rights. Unimpeded communication and the free flow of information are cornerstones of any successful post-disaster relief framework and a peace process. However, the urgency of war usually augments the repression of mainstream print & electronic media. Censorship and threats to journalists invariably affect how news & information is selected, gathered, published and stored. Successive governments in Sri Lanka have grossly undermined the development of media responsive to citizen’s needs and aspirations.
Citizens as watchdogs of democracy take a new twist with new media and the increasing accessibility of the web and Internet. Using technologies such as mobile phones that over the past five to ten years have taken root in every tier of society even in Sri Lanka, citizens are increasingly “speaking” out against the systemic failures of governance, and in support of rights. With new tools that help citizens create, consume, store and distribute information – such as SMS on mobile phones, podcasts and video editing on every PC, and the advent of blogs on the web – we are witnessing the democratisation of content production, and with it, the emergence of a new timbre of communications & media more attuned to needs and aspirations of all citizens. Multi-million rupee studios and equipment worth hundreds of thousands of rupees, available only to large corporations and media organisations, have hitherto packaged the news & information we consume. Today, even illiterate citizens living below the poverty line can record for posterity – for example through podcasts facilitated by NGOs – their ideas for pro-poor growth which often run counter to the equally reprehensible neo-conservative and neo-liberal notions of development. Text, audio and video production is now a standard feature in mobile devices including mobile phones, PC’s and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s). The web and Internet are accessible almost anywhere with the footprints of mobile telephony & wireless Internet nearly coast-to-coast. Accordingly, initiatives such as Witness that seek to document gross human rights violations and strengthen the Rule of Law and democracy now have new human rights monitors in their service – ordinary citizens, using ordinary devices to record extra-ordinary events.
Much has already been written on the potential of new technologies, ICT, new media and the latest buzzword, citizen journalism. Citizen journalism is the act of citizens “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information” according to the seminal report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information. As is noted in this report “The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.” However, we are acutely aware of the limits of technology, both in the design of and access to the technology itself, and in the manner of they are used in countries with a growing democratic deficit, such as Sri Lanka. As Sanjana Hattotuwa notes in an article published recently on the import of citizen journalism on anti-terrorism measures:
Often, this new age of citizen journalism lacks the grammar of age-old diplomacy and socio-political norms – the conversation is raw, visceral, impatient, irreverent, pithy, provocative. In Sri Lanka, it is a conversation that’s largely still in English, and also limited to urban centres… The potential of citizen journalism, however, is its ability to provide a forum for all citizens – male and female, of all ethnicities, castes, classes and religions – to express themselves freely, society will better accommodate ideas and measures that engender peace.
As we have witnessed in countries such as the Philippines, information in the hands of a public equipped with mobile phones can be a powerful democratic imperative that brings down an authoritarian and corrupt governments. We also note stories, even from China – notorious for its media and Internet censorship – of mobiles used to warn populations of disasters, hold mass demonstrations organised via SMS, and even the emergence of m-government. However, success stories such as this run the risk of romanticising the gravity of problems that bedevil post-conflict democratic reform. The deep-rooted power of politicians in rigid social structures, casteism, a clientelist political architecture, rampant nepotism and corruption, among others, temper the progressive social transformation promised by the New Media and Citizen Journalism in particular. Scalability is another problem – projects that show great potential when funded often join a graveyard of well-intentioned initiatives when the funding dries up. Countries such as Sri Lanka are still bedevilled by the lack of standards based swabhasha data input frameworks that in turn strangle the awareness and growth of new media content, such as blogs, in Sinhala and Tamil. As a result, contrary to its moniker, citizen journalism today shows an urban bias, is mediated in English and, inescapably, elite.
This will need to change and soon.
Arguments against CJ
The arguments against citizen journalism on the web are familiar, and frankly now stale and increasingly anachronistic. We are told that the Internet and web are only accessed by a few. This is true. We are told that on account of this, citizen journalism on the web can never have a wider social and political impact. This is not true. The evidence to the contrary even in Sri Lanka is mounting. Daily Mirror in 2008 was the first newspaper to call for citizen journalists to send their camera phone photos directly to their news desk. Articles on Groundviews were republished over a dozen times in the Daily Mirror and other newspapers, republished in academic journalists and books, quoted widely in workshops and conferences on the ethnic question, conflict resolution and constitutional reform, used as references in articles and featured as a groundbreaking exercise on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and some wire reports. Blogs continued their growth and influence – from Colombo to Mahawilachchiya and in between, in places like Kurunegala, Kandy and Matara, bloggers today are writing about life, governance, the quality of service of Internet providers and on human rights more freely, openly and probingly than MSM. These conversations are no longer exclusively in English – the growth of Sinhala UNICODE (though significant problems of usage exist) has seen the exponential rise of swabhasha content on the web over the past two years. And this is not just textual content – Vikalpa’s YouTube channel has been viewed nearly one hundred thousand times since it’s launch in late 2007, far more in fact that than it’s blog site. We know that there are 11 million registered SIM cards in a country with a population of 20 million. We know that mobiles are under utilised as a means of social and political mobilisation in Sri Lanka, even though even the poorest have access to them (and studies by Lirneasia indicate also use mobiles regularly). Tarun Tejpal, creator of Tehelka.com, one of India’s best known news sites, noted in Galle during the Galle Literary Festival that it was the message that matters, not the medium. He said by definition, Tehelka.com could not and would not be read by the 1 billion plus Indians in his country, but that the need for investigative reporting into corruption and independent journalism resulted in the creation of a website that today is legendary for its ability to hold government accountable.
In Sri Lanka, the pervasive culture of hand wringing and fatalism combined severely undermine innovation in media strategies. CPA’s experience alone suggests that new media can complement and strengthen traditional media initiatives and importantly, also bring in diaspora voices to local debates. Whereas not a single MSM print, electronic or radio web website has embraced principles of crowd sourcing news gathering and social networking (the Daily Mirror website is the most evolved in this regard, but this isn’t saying much) we have to turn to bloggers and initiatives like Perambara and In Mutiny to realise what a large space there is for critical debate and discussion on issues one can no longer talk about safely and openly in MSM.
Arguments against CJ also come most pointedly from MSM journalism, especially (but not exclusively) from those working in the swabhasha. Many of them have no understanding of basic IT, leave aside CJ and new media. Few can type Sinhala, fewer access the Internet and web. They are a dying breed that treats the Internet and web as a luxury journalism can do well without, and engaging voices featured on the blogosphere as opinionated youth better off getting an education. There is little engagement possible here, and we are better of engaging in new media initiatives rather than efforts to convince them that ICTs and journalists are inextricably entwined.
Sadly, the contestation of CJ itself in Sri Lanka is fraught with needless, yet endless misunderstanding. At the end of the past two years, Groundviews has received the following comment:
පුරවැසි ජනමාධ්යවේදයක් ගොඩනැගිම වෙනුවෙන් ඔබගන්නා උත්සාහය අගේ කරමු. එහෙත් ඔබ විසින් ලේබල් ගසා ඇති පරිදි මේ වෙඩ් අඩවිය පුරවැසි ජනමාධ්ය වෙබ් අඩවියක් ලෙසින් අපි නොදකිමු. ඒ අප දන්නා පුරවැසි ජනමාධ්යවෙිදයේ මුලික සංකල්ප වලට අනුවය. ප්රධාන ධාරවේ අතිබුහතරයකගේ ලිපි පළකරමින් එය පුරවැසි ජනමාධ්යවේදි අඩවියක් ලෙසින් නම් කිරිමට ඉක්ිමන් නොවන්න. අප දැනට වසර 6 ක් තිස්සේ ඒකි සංකල්ප වෙනුවෙන් නිරන්තර වැඩකොටසක නිරතව සිටිමු. එහෙත් අප තවමත් අප පුරවැසි ජනමාධ්යවේදයක් ගොඩනගා ඇතැයි කියන්නට ඉක්මන් නොවෙමු. අප ඒ වෙනුවෙන් යම් කොටසක් කර ඇත.
එහෙන් ඇත්ත අරුතට යන්නට තව තවත් පොරබැදිය යුතුය .
ඔබටද ඒ සදහා ශක්තිය පතමු.
මීපුර ප්රාදේශීය පුවත්පත
Excerpts from my response to this comment in 2007, that I pointed to again in 2008, is worth publishing here at some length as it goes to explain CPA’s understanding of and approach to citizen journalism, which by no means is the only definition or the only way in which one can celebrate participatory media on the Internet and web.
You say Groundviews is not citizen journalism. I believe it is.
I believe Groundviews, Vikalpa and Vikalpa Video have raised awareness on how web media in general, and blogs and short online video in particular – in English, Sinhala and Tamil – can promote ideas that critique what’s in mainstream / traditional media in Sri Lanka… I believe that by publishing articles from non-journalists, from IDPs, from relief workers, from civil society activists and creating in the case of Groundviews an award winning site for stories on war, peace and democracy in Sri Lanka, we’ve created something that simply didn’t exist before. And the increasingly numbers coming here seem to suggest that what’s written by ordinary citizens is seen as valuable by many others located in Sri Lanka and abroad.
Meepura I first heard about it years ago … as a small newspaper struggling to make an impact against the traditional media’s stranglehold on the public imagination. Your web presence, which I take is new, is interesting in that it promotes stories from Negombo for what I believe is an audience primarily from Negombo. That’s what may be called hyper-local in citizen journalism. Our effort is different.
There’s room for more than one definition and example of citizen media in Sri Lanka. For our part, we are happy to see Groundviews, and more importantly, Vikalpa and Vikalpa Video champion and demonstrate by example how web based media can evolve into something that gives traditional media a run for their money. It’s desperately needed, given the atrocious quality of journalism we read in both Private and State media for reasons both linked to the despicable nature of the regime today and also the equally damning lack of professionalism in mainstream journalism itself.
Groundviews, VOR Radio, Vikalpa and Vikalpa Video offers perspectives in English, Sinhala, Tamil, audio and video, every day, all week. Our websites as they stand today are a vital record of thoughts that CANNOT be found in traditional journalism. For students of conflict resolution, they are a treasure trove of information. For students on critical discourse during war, they are a living experiment of how the imperfect science of moderation grapples daily with hate speech and how civility is often lost in debates on ethnic identity, religion and the causes of war.
This to me is citizen journalism – it’s real, it’s compelling, it offers no single truth, and for me, exciting to be part of a larger effort that is shaping Sri Lanka’s news and information agenda especially at a time when so much of it is so very one-sided.
The next sections will look at briefly some of the key platforms and aspects of citizen journalism in Sri Lanka.
Blogs, blogging and citizen journalism
Blogs and blogging have changed the way we bear witness and interact with (and indeed, define) newsmakers. Sites like NowPublic, Global Voices, Pro Publica show us how powerful citizen journalism can be at challenging shibboleths, received wisdom and the status quo. In addition, they showcase writing of merit on people, places, events and process that are vital to communities and readers but would be glossed over by traditional media and the economic interests that support them. Today, mobile phone help citizens respond to violence even in places as remote as Kashmir. The Pulitzer Centre encourages citizen journalism to submit short videos on issues that matter to their communities the most. YouTube itself is encouraging the submission of videos that seriously deal with vital issues such as peace and human rights. CPA’s own work in Sri Lanka used web media to commemorate an event this year that still is hugely emotive and traumatic in Sri Lanka – the commemoration of the July 1983 pogrom against Tamils and the 50th year since the first race riots in Sri Lanka. It has to date generated tens of thousands of readers. Short videos posted by Vikalpa on a YouTube channel, unique in Sri Lanka, has been featured in YouTube’s top 100 list of channels. Online media and social networking are changing social and political relations (primarily amongst youth) in many Arab and Middle Eastern countries, for the better. States can no longer easily clamp down on news and information and promote propaganda that’s uncontested and believed. Blogs are interrogating the violent history of a country such as Sri Lanka in a manner that’s not even imagined of by the State, and through such efforts, are helping a younger generation think of ethnic relations differently.
Social networking combined with mobiles helped Barack Obama become the President of the United States. If that isn’t a cogent example of how the Internet can help strengthen tolerance and celebrate diversity, I don’t know what is. Amnesty International uses some viscerally compelling web videos that are a cinch to integrate to social networks to promote advocacy against human rights abuses by the world’s most powerful countries / democracies. Yes, it’s true that social networking sometimes brings out the worst in us, but who is documenting the rise of Facebook as a serious platform for serious work?
Our work in Sri Lanka suggests that even in a country with comparatively poor internet bandwidth and high costs of Internet access, people are still extremely interested in video content on war, peace and governance.
These examples may not be on the radar of many who contributed to the Future of the Internet report, but that’s no reason to shaft them aside as unimportant markers of how the Internet can, and indeed already does help in strengthening tolerance, democracy and rights. Heck, even the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2008, President Martti Ahtisaari, concurs wholeheartedly. And lest we forget, there’s the work of Witness and in particular its Human Rights Hub. Its recent campaign on the images that were powerful narratives on human rights resulted in the following (accurate at the time of writing):
- 350,000+ views (that includes only what we can track!)
- 40+ bloggers picked-up the story and had conversations on their own blogs
- 247,000 web pages that reference the question and conversation – at the peak of the project
- 1,000+ responses to the question
- 925+ text responses
- 60+ video responses
Clearly then, strengthening tolerance through online video, blogs and social networking – to name just three channels of information exchange, knowledge transfer and possible reconciliation on the Internet – shows great potential.
Challenges: Local, Global
New media and citizen journalism don’t, in and of themselves, promise a stronger democracy. Used for advocating the rights of all citizens and especially those affected by disasters, however, these technologies create new ways for citizens to be heard, governments to be held accountable and the State to answer to failures of governance. Ordinary citizens, trained journalists, civil rights activists, youth and more are increasingly using technology, though devices such as mobile phones, to support powerful frameworks of transparency and accountability that citizens can use to hold decision makers responsible for their action and indeed, inaction. Yet, Nalaka Gunawardene in an article published on Groundviews writes on the emerging threats facing citizen journalists in Sri Lanka in an article titled Endangered: Our right to ‘shoot’ in public,
In recent months, pedestrians who filmed public bomb attacks on their mobile phones have been confronted by the police. One citizen who passed on such footage to an independent TV channel was later vilified as a ‘traitor’. Overly suspicious (or jealous?) neighbours called the police about a friend who was running his video editing business from home in suburban Colombo.None of these individuals had broken any known law. Yet each one had to protest their innocence.
It may not be illegal, but it sure has become difficult and hazardous to use a camera in public in Sri Lanka today. Forget political demonstrations or bomb attacks that attract media attention. Covering even the most innocuous, mundane aspects of daily life can be misconstrued as a ‘security threat’.
As Nalaka points out in his article, even liberal democracies such as the US have also tried to clamp down on User Generated Content (USG) and citizen journalism. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) came out with a disturbing report in October 2008, in which it noted that out of 125 incarcerated as of 1st December 2008, 56 of them were online journalists including bloggers. As CPJ notes,
[it is] a tally that surpasses the number of print journalists for the first time. The number of imprisoned online journalists has steadily increased since CPJ recorded the first jailed Internet writer in its 1997 census. Print reporters, editors, and photographers make up the next largest professional category, with 53 cases in 2008. Television and radio journalists and documentary filmmakers constitute the rest.
“Online journalism has changed the media landscape and the way we communicate with each other,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “But the power and influence of this new generation of online journalists has captured the attention of repressive governments around the world, and they have accelerated their counterattack.”
Bloggers in Sri Lanka aren’t recognised as journalists (save for a single statement by leading media freedom organisations in 2007) and do not enjoy the legal protection afforded to traditional media personnel. Independent online media websites have been increasingly hacked into in 2008. With traditional print media now embracing citizen journalism and with web audiences / consumers growing apace, there is no doubt that the regime’s attention will focus on the web and Internet in the future. Arguably, this already evident is some of the legislation it proposes for media regulation.
We can think of some other pitfalls and challenges facing citizen journalism’s growth in Sri Lanka:
- Donors, most of them, have no clue as to how to best support new media. Many of them don’t understand the term, the concept or the technology. The worst of them end up supporting initiatives that aren’t anchored to ground realities. The best of them are often misguided and believe that the introduction of ICTs can magically and in the short term change socio-political, cultural and other identity based relations scarred by protracted conflict.
- There are few Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) tools capable of measuring the impact of social / new media. The tools that exist are designed to measure the effective of mainstream media. New media’s impact is harder to capture, esp. when you recognise the range of technologies involved, the difference in the way the media is consumed, produced and disseminated, the difference in the content – the medium as well as the message – and the difference in audience demographics.
- Acknowledge the fact that initial thought experiments may be in and of themselves failures, but are key in generating debate, discussion and interest in new / social media. Donors tend to write off entire initiatives and projects because they don’t show the results promised or desired in the short term. On the other hand, the disruptive nature of the projects may be more manifest over the medium to long term, which requires long term strategic interventions. As Sanjana Hattotuwa notes in “Mass audiences” and citizen journalism
“I would be elated to realise political change on account of the content featured on say Groundviews, but I would not be dissapointed if this does not happen any time soon. The content on the site and the larger content on the SL blogosphere, including all of that which I don’t agree with, are deeply valuable in a country precisely for the reason that they offer a greater spectrum of opinion than what I find in traditional media today – which is silent by fear or coercion.”
- New media producers often disregard the wider cultural, economic and political repercussions of the content they create. The challenge of hyper-local media is that it is both local and it isn’t. A local news story published on the web may pique national interest if the issue is connected to (or seen to be connected to) a larger debate. This is especially the case in violent conflict. This has serious implications for local content producers, both positive and negative, that need to assessed and managed. This includes identity protection.
- Thought leaders often attract parasites who come in the form of individuals and organisations, both local and international. Managing these parasites, who often have access to power, funding and other vital connections, is very difficult and can lead to more conflict.
- Blogs and blogging, from production to dissemination and influence need to take into account, inter alia, class, caste and (party) political power centres and structures. Importantly, issues like language politics, ethnicity and other identity markers and their interplay with web based media production and generation as well as aspects such as gender cannot be ignored when talking about the reach and influence of blogs and blogging as a means of communication.
There are other significant challenges, not unique to citizen journalism and new media, but certainly augmented by the very nature of the media that they rest on. In a conversation with the author, Dan Gillmor, Director of the Centre for Citizen Media based in the US and widely regarding as a leading expert in Citizen Journalism averred, “… we must also be careful that citizen media that is irresponsible, unprofessional, partial and inaccurate – does not hinder the growth of free voices on the web.” The early experience with citizen journalism in Sri Lanka clearly brings out the tendency for slander, bitter personal invective and polemics that are strengthened in part because of the conventions of anonymity that citizen journalism as it exists today rests on. And as an article by Julien Pain, Head of the Internet Freedom desk at Reporters Sans Frontiers, suggests, the very technologies of liberation and democracy such as those which power citizen journalism are those now used by dictatorships and repressive regimes to clamp down even more on citizens.
Clearly however, new media and citizen journalism are emerging as powerful new ways through which citizens – even victims of protracted conflict, or of natural disasters – can access and create content that sheds light on their lives their viewpoints and their ideas. The litmus test for new media and citizen journalism, in the service of strengthening democracy and securing conflict transformation, is to mirror the same professional ethics and standards that underpin professional journalism in the content produced by citizens. The central challenge, and a very difficult one at that, is celebrating the personal, insider-partial, raw perspectives of citizens and balancing this commentary and opinion with context and analysis. The challenge to established print and electronic media today is quite simply to respond to the growing “impertinence” of citizens keen to know more than what reporters have traditionally handed out to them as news & information.
Recommendations and ideas
Not a single media development programme in Sri Lanka to date has demonstrated any significant emphasis on new media. The rare initiative that has utilised digital media technologies (such as the BBC World Service Trust’s online training for radio journalists and Internews programming in Sri Lanka) have not engaged with the true potential of the web, internet and mobile phone technologies and instead have chosen to limit training to a specific range of products, services and competencies (e.g. digital audio editing sans an emphasis on pod-casting, or digital video editing sans any training on online video advocacy and publishing).
Through CPA’s experience, we know that:
- New media has an increasing impact on news – including content produced by CPA’s own citizen journalism initiatives as well as User Generated Content (UGC) in general. Mobiles, bloggers, citizen journalists, social networking, viral news distribution via the web and mobiles, online censorship and mainstream media’s (MSM) metamorphosis into interactive news sites are all aspects of the media industry’s rapid change that media development in Sri Lanka has not yet addressed.
- The low cost, portability and anonymity of new technology offer journalists better mobility, more protection from government oppression and a better chance for sustainability.
- New technologies also support distance learning for journalists, news production online and other operational changes.
- In some regions, ‘sojos’ or ‘camjos’ (solo journalists and mobile camera phone journalists) are the only ones bearing witness to gross human rights abuses and the under-reported human fallout of the on-going war
- Some regions and provinces demonstrate an underlying technical infrastructure (wired / wireless / mobile internet and web access at low cost) that can help leap-frog media development and help establish viable, sustainable community driven independent media
- Measures that develop the capacity of MSM journalists to deal with the challenges of new media, and professional training to citizen journalists are both needed to develop independent media in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) training programmes need to be looked at in this regard, along with their (as yet unconfirmed) offering of citizen journalism training programmes (as a Diploma programme on weekends) beginning 2009 based on a comprehensive new media syllabus developed via Microsoft funding.
Outlawed – Using video for Human Rights protection and documentation, http://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2007/01/05/outlawed-using-video-for-human-rights-protection-and-documentation/
We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, http://www.hypergene.net/wemedia/download/we_media.pdf
The promise of citizen journalism, http://www.madrid11.net/articles/srilanka220107
Defeating repressive regimes, http://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2006/05/10/defeating-repressive-regimes/
Strong Angel III – Interview with Dan Gilmor, http://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2006/08/25/strong-angel-iii-interview-with-dan-gilmor/
Dictatorships catching up with Web 2.0, Julien Pain http://news.com.com/2010-1028_3-6155582.html
Amateur Hour, Nicholas Lemann, http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060807fa_fact1