The telling lack of timely SMS news alerts on the arrest and detention of Tamils

Writing on the arrest and detention of hundreds of Tamils in the South of Sri Lanka, Ange in an article published on Groundviews had a very interesting observation on SMS based news services in Sri Lanka at a time such as this:

I wonder at the comfortable ignorance the majority of us enjoy being in. We don’t want to be perceived as “not in the in” so we have cable TV, maybe an internet connection or maybe even a subscription to receive news alerts so that we have access to news from all over the world. But we don’t seem too perturbed by the fact that maybe something is happening right under our noses. We don’t mind that we may be the last ones to know. Some of us even don’t mind never knowing at all.

After my news alerts facility became a paid one, I thought I’d not think too much about the cost (in addition to all the other levies etc on my phone bill) and keep it as it would be useful to be in the loop. But as a paying customer I feel slightly let down that I was not informed and instead was made to look like a fool when my friend asked me if I had not heard [about the detentions]. I’m seriously considering unsubscribing and I’m miffed that I didn’t save the details of how one should go about doing so.

I wrote an SMS to JNW (Sri Lanka’s first SMS news service and in my opinion, though struggling to compete with new services on Mobitel and Dialog, still the most useful) just before I wrote this post:

Good morning! Have not received any news of the on going arrests of Tamils. Did you send an alert? It is supposed to be over 1500 according to one web news report I read this morning. Did you send one I missed? This is news! 

JNW’s reponse was that they were working on a story and would have it out soon. I’ll bet that once JNW comes out with it, Ada Derana and Lankapuwath on Mobitel may follow with similar SMS alerts of their own, but will never be the first to run with this story.

5 comments on “The telling lack of timely SMS news alerts on the arrest and detention of Tamils

  1. Des
    December 3, 2007 at 12:09 pm #

    fyi, JNW is on Mobitel. It is an excellent step for Lankapuwath and Mobitel to get into Sinhala & Tamil SMS. Will be useful to see how easy it is to register and how useful and practical these services are. I tried to register but had a technical error come up, but that is to be expected for a pioneering service.
    Hats off to Mobitel for being the first to launch English and Sinhala, Tamil SMS news alerts, while Dialog is a far away second with no Sinhala, Tamil SMS news.

  2. concerned
    December 11, 2007 at 3:10 pm #

    Sanjana, there’s a rather self explanatory ‘story behind the story’ of the sms news alerts and why the mass arrests story did not appear on our mobiles: Reuters who were initially contracted by dialog to provide the content pulled out of the deal around six weeks ago, after repeated ‘differences’ with the dialog management over the coverage of certain stories and the news agency’s refusal to toe the line and follow ‘guidelines’ with regard to specific news items. Derana has since replaced Reuters as the news provider for the sms alerts .

  3. Sanjana Hattotuwa
    December 11, 2007 at 3:18 pm #


    I was also told of the “guidelines” and the problem between Senior Management @ Dialog and Reuters. Also see




  1. IPS story on New Media in Sri Lanka - A first attempt to grasp new media agenda setting in Sri Lanka « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - February 5, 2008

    […] to date through just SMS based news and information dissemination. Chamath seems to have settled on SMS news services through various mobile operators, with sadly no real interest in pursuing ways through which the service, that I am a subscriber of […]

  2. JNW SMS news service returns to Dialog « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - July 16, 2008

    […] 16, 2008 Some SMS based news services in Sri Lanka have a rather peculiar understanding of news – no reports received for example when over 1,500 Tamils were arrested and detained late last year perhaps because some operators place restrictions on the nature of news that can be […]

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