New and powerful voices for media freedom in Sri Lanka?

Some of the best writing on the recent arson attack on MBC / MTV studios comes from two renown voices in the Sri Lankan blogosphere.

Indi’s article The Media War is a very good counterpoint to the analysis of given by Dayan Jayatilleka in my interview with him yesterday when I asked him about the egregious decline in media freedom in the country. It is also a post that has generated a lot of interesting commentary, with points suggested by A Voice in Colombo for example that cannot be easily dismissed.

In MTV/MBC – Looking back, Dinidu takes a impartial look at the arson attack noting that,

Sirasa was different in their reportage. When all the channels were giving “Ranaviruwo” kind of biased romanticized reporting, Sirasa was either following a removed stance, or a pro-UNP agenda. To say otherwise, or to argue that they (or any other media in this country, for that matter) is unbalanced, is naivety at its highest. But if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Nobody should take the jungle law into their own jungle hands and execute an operation of execution.

After what can be best captured as an insider-partial relationship for over 7 years with leading media freedom organisations in Sri Lanka, it’s sad to see that most members are around 45. They are mostly male with token female membership and participation. They are all left of centre. They are all trade unionists and street fighters. They are mostly computer illiterate. They are all seasoned journalists, but they have little understanding of and interest in web and online advocacy strategies. As I have told them repeatedly they are, sadly, already advocacy and campaign dinosaurs in a digital age – unable to inspire new voices to join their cause, unable to reach out to new younger members, unable to diversify their membership including on gendered lines and unable to leverage the web and online communications to strengthen their campaigns and advocacy. Worse, recent allegations against key members in this community has even further vitiated their appeal and effectiveness especially amongst web savvy youth.

Indi and Dinidu I don’t believe have ever participated in any media freedom rally. They are not members of any media freedom advocacy organisation. This is a good thing. Independent and new voices partial to the freedom of expression need to complement other more well established voices to clamour for an end to this mindless violence against media that does not toe a particular line. Yet, it is the nature of bloggers to have a short attention span and move on from issues they have written on. This may be the case with both Indi and Dinidu and their respective blogs. But the comments to Indi’s post at the time of writing and Dinidu’s analysis strengthens the argument made by Evgeny Morozov on,

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.

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