Kasun Erandi, now a graduate of Kelaniya University and currently employed at the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), is someone who came and met me around one and a half years ago as she was writing her thesis on new media and citizen journalism in Sri Lanka. I was happy to note that she had gone on to expand her thesis into a book, published in Sinhala and now available through bookstores. The book is the first in Sinhala to deal with citizen journalism. Having speed read it during the book launch recently, it is in parts a basic introduction to the Internet, a compendium of blogs in Sri Lanka and long interviews on new media and citizen journalism with some leading bloggers, including myself. The book focusses primarily on blogs, and in this sense, misses out on the plethora of other means, platforms and tools through which citizen journalism can blossom.
The book, selling for 300 rupees, is nevertheless a very valuable addition to the available literature in English, most often inaccessible to the majority of students of journalism.
Worth recognising is the speech by Charitha Herath, Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information at the book launch. It was a reasoned, excellently thought through and well articulated position on the potential of new media in a democracy. I’ve known Charitha for years, and though we hold very different opinions about the freedom of expression online in Sri Lanka and increasing censorship, it’s refreshing to debate contentious issues with someone who can present a well reasoned argument, instead of for example the frothing mad and often deadly serious invective from other voices in Government. In contrast, and true to form, Prof. Ariyaratna Athugala, Director General of the Government News Department, began his talk by sternly warning the audience of new media’s potential to undermine democracy, and why censorship of this undesirable content was necessary. Sadly, this part doesn’t make it into the video below.