Full text: Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility, October 2008

Available as a PDF in English, Sinhala and Tamil.

Also see emphasis on Internet freedom and respecting blogger’s rights here.

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On the Occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Colombo Declaration on Media Freedomand Social Responsibility (“Declaration”), we, the undersigned:

Reaffirming our commitment to the principles and values articulated in the Declaration, and to the process of Reform of Media Laws that we set out on.

We take this opportunity to revisit the Declaration, to acknowledge the positive developments that have taken place since then, to remind ourselves of the many goals that remain unfulfilled, and to chart out new challenges that have arisen since the Declaration

We note that the Government of Sri Lanka was one of the signatories to the Colombo Declaration on Media, Development and Poverty Eradication, Colombo, 2006 (“UNESCO Declaration”) and its commitments under this Declaration include the promotion of a free, pluralistic and independent media committed to social justice and development. We recall further that the Windhoek Declaration of 1991 asserted that the right to a free press is a fundamental right underpinning participatory democracy.

We believe that one of the ways of achieving a free, pluralistic and independent media is by implementing the reforms suggested in the Declaration of 1998 and by guaranteeing to journalists the constitutional right to practice their profession while ensuring their safety and security.

Towards that end, we take this opportunity to present a revised version of the 1998 Declaration, and we pledge to work towards translating the normative aspirations of the Colombo Declaration into lived reality.

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Award Winning Citizen Journalism in Sri Lanka – Looking back at 2008

Over the course of 2008, Groundviews published over 250 compelling contributions from ordinary Sri Lankans, award winning poets and authors, renowned academics, diplomats, civil servants, leading civil society activists and others.

Sri Lanka’s first citizen journalism website and operating without any donor funding, content from Groundviews is consistently republished in mainstream media, academic journals, books, other leading news websites and blogs and widely quoted in presentations at leading workshops and conferences locally and internationally. Content published this year ranged from essays to poetry, photos to videos, serialised narratives to academic papers and unique perspectives of life on the ground from embattled cities in the North and the “liberated” Eastern Province.

The site welcomed well over 230,000 readers in 2008 with over 3,400 substantive comments by readers. Technically, Groundviews features the most secure and sophisticated commenting system on any media website in Sri Lanka and offers content over email, mobiles and news feeds.

Groundviews was the only website from Sri Lanka shortlisted under the e-news category at the prestigious Manthan Awards in 2008. The site is ranked 146,067 on the world’s leading blog aggregation site Technorati, out of the over 17 million blogs it indexes globally. Groundviews is also the first and to date only citizen journalism website from Sri Lanka to be featured and fully indexed on Google News.

Content published on Groundviews since its launch in 2006 demonstrates how professional web based citizen journalism can strengthen progressive, civil dialogues on highly complex and inflammatory issues and topics. The site regularly publishes content that will not and cannot be published in mainstream / traditional media in Sri Lanka today. In doing so, it shows that web based citizen journalism and media can meaningfully foster vital debates on war, peace, human rights and democracy even within violent conflict.

Some of the most read content / collections in 2008

Many of these authors submitted other articles as widely read as those featured above. Clicking on their names on the site brings up a list of all articles submitted.

Some articles that generated a lot of comments and reactions from readers

Poetry by local and international award winning poets on war, peace and other topics

Videos exclusive to Groundviews

Groundviews is Sri Lanka’s first and award winning citizens journalism website features an unparalleled range of ideas, opinions and analyses on humanitarian issues, media freedom, human rights, peace, democratic governance and constitutional reform.

Gagging the web and Internet: Implications of the proposed Private TV Broadcasting Regulations in Sri Lanka

Censorship of media in Sri Lanka isn’t a new phenomenon, but the Rajapakse regime took it a step further recently when it recently promulgated a new set of regulations through a gazette notification, called the Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations. The over broad and ill-defined regulations, in parts copied and pasted verbatim from Indian Cable TV and IP TV regulations, were a measure to further undermine independent media in Sri Lanka.

On 14th November 2008, the Supreme Court, issuing a stay order suspending the operation of these regulations, granted a case lodged by the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association and others who opposed the proposed regulations as an affront to the freedom of expression leave to proceed. The case is to be heard on 26 January 2009.

Disturbingly, the proposed regulations are a significant challenge to all bloggers in Sri Lanka, since they seek to hold accountable all ISPs for the qualitative nature of the content transmitted, accessed and produced using their networks and further, makes no distinction between IP TV (e.g. SLT’s PeoTV) and TV / televisual content over the web and Internet (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo).

To discuss the implications of these proposed regulations, I’ll facilitate a roundtable discussion together with Beyond Borders on the 22nd November, from 3.45pm to 6pm at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI). I hope this discussion will animate youth activists and bloggers in Sri Lanka to take individual and collective action against these regulations which particularly under the Rajapakse regime and also future governments can be used to censor, at will, (video) content on the web and Internet.

Read the agenda for the discussion here. Read the background briefing for the discussion, written from the perspective of a new media producer / blogger / web activist critiquing the proposed regulations as a PDF here.

The participation I have in mind are youth activists, new media producers and bloggers, NOT mainstream media journalists, or senior staff / heads of the communications units of of NGOs, INGOs or CSOs. There’s no real cut off age, but I want to target this discussion at compelling new voices, who may not agree with each other, but are passionate about self-expression using web and online media on the Internet. We already have the confirmed participation of some of Sri Lanka’s most recognised and respected voices in the blogosphere.

Please confirm your participation with Beyond Borders or myself, since seats are limited at the venue.