Featured image by Amalini De Sayrah

2018 saw ethno-nationalism, the role of technology in moderating hate speech and freedom of expression and the impact of foreign debt, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative remain key topics in global discourse. It also saw a growing movement of women speaking out about workplace harassment and sexual assault, through the #MeToo hashtag. Though many questioned the effectiveness of the movement, there was no denying its power.

All of these conversations impacted Sri Lanka in one form or another over the course of the year. In February and March, a series of violent riots in Ampara and Digana left a lasting impact on the Muslim community. In the aftermath of the riots, civil society wrote an open letter to Facebook highlighting the spread of hate speech, including of technology-related violence against women and the LGBTIQ community on its platform. Facebook responded to the open letter, and has made commitments towards improving its response to hate speech and misinformation. A New York Times story on the Hambantota Port increased scrutiny on China’s role in development, including in Sri Lanka.

In 2018, Groundviews continued conversations begun the previous year on the explosion of the #MeToo movement, examining the pervasive nature of sexual violence in Sri Lanka, including around workplace harassment in the private and public sector. 

2018 marked a number of important events in Sri Lankan history, including 35 years since the Black July riots, 70 years since Sri Lanka’s Independence, and one year of protests by families of the disappeared and those displaced through militarisation.

In October, the surprise resignation of President Sirisena from the coalition Government in what has been widely termed a “constitutional coup” left shockwaves that endure beyond the re-instatement of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.

Through these myriad events, Groundviews attempted to be a trusted source in times of crisis, to combat misinformation and disinformation, and generate conversation on topics largely underreported in mainstream media.

Below is a list of our top 20 articles for the year.

  1. An Open Letter to Maithripala Sirisena – Documenting an act of civilian resistance that struck a chord with many
  2. The Beast Rides Again – On the violence in Ampara and Teldeniya and ongoing cycles of violence
  3. STF Brutality against Muslims in Digana: March 5 – Report based on eyewitness accounts of STF brutality during riots in Digana
  4. Sri Lanka’s Pandemic of Sexual Violence – On Sri Lanka’s pervasive culture of sexual violence
  5. Deranged – On the chaos ensuing the constitutional crisis on October 26, a time of ‘systemic unraveling’
  6. Namal Rajapaksa, bots and trolls: New contours of digital propaganda and online discourse in Sri Lanka – On the weaponisation of social media by political figures in Sri Lanka
  7. Sex and gender in the anti-Muslim riots – On sexual and gendered dimensions of the riots in Digana and Ampara
  8. Smart Phones and Stupid Governments: Blocking Social Media as Sri Lanka Burns – On freedom of expression and censorship of social media platforms during riots in Digana in March
  9. Money Talks: Some Facts About the Depreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee – Debunking myths in the wake of reporting around currency depreciation
  10. From an Electoral Drubbing to a Manufactured Crisis – In the wake of steep losses by the coalition government at the local government elections, reflection on growing dissastisfaction with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government for failing to deliver on campaign promises
  11. Reigning In The Executive President – On the attack of democratic institutions by a runaway executive, and the need to limit the powers of Presidency
  12. Facebook Responds to Open Letter by Civil Society – Facebook’s response to an open letter issued by Sri Lankan civil society organisations on the spread of hate speech on its platform
  13. The Government has failed us. Do we fail ourselves? – On the then impending local government elections and President Sirisena seeking a Supreme Court ruling on his Presidential term
  14. The Coup de Grace on the Coup d’etat? – On the failed coup attempt by President Sirisena and former President Rajapaksa and the need to work together for a political compromise
  15. The Parliament Fair – Satirical poem on the violence unleashed on Speaker of the House of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya
  16. Mental Health and Stigma in Sri Lanka – On the stigma against receiving treatment for mental health in Sri Lanka
  17. What, to the minority, is democracy? – On enduring racism in Sri Lankan postcolonial politics
  18. RTI Reveals Lanka E News Blocked on Order from the President’s Office – Article using the Right to Information which finds that Lanka E News was blocked by the President’s office, with implications for freedom of expression
  19. The Multiculturalism of Sinhala Song: A Review of Sons and Fathers – Movie review examining the multiculturalism of Sinhala music, juxtaposed with identity politics in Sri Lanka
  20. The Fall of the No-Confidence Motion Against the Prime Minister – A piece looking at the failed no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the weakened position of the Government ‘in office but not in power.’

Want to see what people were talking about on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? View a short video below:

Groundviews wishes its readers a happy and peaceful new year.