Ampara, Batticaloa, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Jaffna, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict, Trincomalee, Vavuniya

Dismissing inconvenient truths – The Divaina’s take on Groundviews

Clearly, Groundviews seems to be doing something right in highlighting the plight of IDPs and refugees in the embattled North and East of Sri Lanka through stories such as I pray God that no one in this world should face the hardships, faced by my child and me and We are nobody’s children… and others.

The Divaina, a Sinhala daily published by the Upali Newspapers Group, had this to say on our recent story on IDPs in Trincomalee:

“මෙයට සමගාමීව කොටින්ට පකෂපාතී ස්වෙච්ඡා සංවිධාන අලුතින් අන්තර්ජාල වෙබ් අඩවි ආරම්භ කරමින් ත්‍රිකුණාමලයේ අවතැන්වූවන් අතිශය දුෂ්කර ජීවිතයක් ගත කරන බවට ප්‍රචාරයක් විකාශනය කර ඇත. මේ අන්තර්ජාල වෙබ් අඩවිය ආරම්භ කළ තැනැත්තා කවූරුන්දැයි දැන් හෙළි වී තිබේ.

ශී ලංකාවේ පූරවැසි මාධ්‍යවේදියා නමින් හඳුන්වා ගනිමින් ආරම්භ කර ඇති මේ කොටින්ට පකෂපාතී වෙබ් අඩවියෙන් පවසා ඇත්තේ හමූදාපති ඝාතන ප්‍රයත්නයෙන් පසූ යූද හමූදාව ත්‍රිකුණාමලයේ එචිලන්පත්තු ගම්මානයට මෝටාර් සහ රොකටි ප්‍රහාර එල්ල කළ බවයි. මින් පැහැදිලි වන්නේ වන්නි කොටි බේරා ගැනීමට මෙරට ස්වෙච්ඡා සංවිධාන විශාල මෙහෙයූමක් අරඹා ඇති බවයි”

This excerpt, from Divaina’s defence column published on 12th August 2007 (available here as a PDF) by Keerthi Warnakulasuriya, demonstrates the growing influence of citizen journalism in shaping the analyses of columnists in mainstream media. By labelling those who bring to light uncomfortable realities of war as “LTTE agents” and alleging Groundviews to be part of a giant conspiracy of NGOs supportive of the LTTE, Divaina demonstrates a marked intolerance of narratives that run counter to and questions the veracity of its own journalism.

In highlighting simply powerful stories from citizens living in the midst of violent conflict and who have been displaced on account of it, Citizen Journalism and new media in Sri Lanka demonstrate an increasing capacity to unsettle mainstream media’s influence in shaping public opinion. As noted in an article published on Madrid11 on Groundviews and Citizen Journalism::

The more Groundviews is successful in fostering new voices in support of peace, the more it will become a target of concerted attacks to prevent its growth.

And it is here that our greatest challenge lies. Not in the technology itself, but in the creation of a social and political movement – one fostered by citizen journalism mediated through new media and new technology – that is able to maintain, in some small way, the hope of a just and lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

This hope fuels Groundviews, not as a simplistic magic bullet against terrorism, but as an increasingly important vehicle for ordinary citizens to record their views in support of democracy as the only way through which terrorism can be effectively combated.