Aluthgama riots and deaths: Vital updates

Photo courtesy BBC

Update #3: 7.05am, 176 June 2014

A video with English subtitles of the BBS speech that incited violence in Aluthgama is now on YouTube. Also uploaded to the web photos we received of the scale of violence in Aluthgama. More photos from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Correspondents Association below.

Update #2: 6.23pm, 16 June 2014

India’s Firstpost runs an excellent story around how social media on the web and citizen journalism, including updates to social media from professional journalists, helped expose the situation in Aluthgama, given the almost blanket censorship of accurate, timely updates in the mainstream news media.

“Reports last night suggested media coverage was stopped by powers higher up but this wasn’t verified. There is genuine fear of reporting these events institutionally because of government and MoD (Ministry of Defence) pushback. Whatever the reason it suggests media is under a regime of censorship through fear, and journalists who have shared with me updates they haven’t made public are also self censoring themselves for fear of being identified later on as those who stoked violence by giving accurate and real time situation reports”, Sanjana Hattotuwa, the editor of Groundviews, told Firstpost. Social media and international media news reports have filled the gap created by the silence of the local press. “What was interesting to see was how many journos were tweeting through their personal accounts that their media outlets were completely blank on”, said Hattotuwa.

Read more at Social media breaks SL media’s shameful silence on Aluthgama riots

Update #1: 3.12pm, 16 June 2014

The mobile phone of Dharisha Bastians, reporting for the Daily FT as well as the Sri Lankan correspondent for the New York Times, has died. Her updates from the field are now being tweeted by Shilpa Samaratunge via @amerynth.

https://twitter.com/groundviews/status/478469060384927744

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  • First thing, get on Twitter if you’re not already on it. You’re not going to get critical, real time updates of the violence in Aluthgama, the spill-over to surrounding areas and its aftermath from traditional mainstream news media. Search for and follow updates from #Aluthgama.
  • Follow us on @groundviews on Twitter for latest updates, including retweets from confirmed, trusted sources, and the debunking of false or unverified content, curtailing its spread over social media. We’ve tweeted over a hundred updates overnight (till around 2.30am today) and have been re-tweeted hundreds of times, including conversations with sources on the ground and other journalists, interestingly tweeting from their personal accounts even though their news institutions blacked out the violence.

  • Follow, inter alia, the accounts noted below, who are all local voices. @cfhaviland from the BBC is a good source to follow as well and importantly, @thersq.

  • There is an on-going mainstream news/print media blackout over the violence in and around Aluthgama. See @groundviews timeline for just how widespread this is. After a full night of violence and deaths, the morning updates on major mainstream media news platforms and their Editors was particularly revealing,

  • No official statement by the Government of Sri Lanka yet on the violence. All we have are tweets from the President and his son.
  • Dharisha Bastians in the Daily FT has this update, published at the height of the violence. It was the only report with this level of detail to be published across any major newspaper website. The BBC’s update was also widely highlighted over social media.
  • Real time news coverage – including over international news media – of the violence is aggregated on Google News here.
  • During the violence, there was radio silence across all mainstream media, with some reports suggesting communications (telephone) services were also disrupted or cut off to the affected areas.
  • Evidently, Sri Lanka’s diplomatic corps has yet to be briefed on the worst communal riots to hit the country in a long time. At the height of the violence, this is what Sri Lanka’s leading diplomat in Australia had to say, raising the ire of everyone on Twitter at the time,

  • A Concerned Citizen

    In the midst of all this Bolivia thought it fit to confer on President Rajapakse a prestigious award for defeating terrorism and restoring peace and development in Sri Lanka and recognised his commitment to human rights.
    What a shame !