Groundviews was launched in November 2006 and is the first citizen journalism website in Sri Lanka. The central idea was to use a blog to publish compelling content in the form of text, audio, video and photos in English, Sinhala and Tamil. The strategy was to raise awareness of the blog virally. Key authors were asked to contribute pithy and provocative articles that pushed the boundaries of polity and traditional media and forced readers to think outside their comfort zones. Measures were taken to register the site outside of Sri Lanka in light of the repressive regime in the country that could take steps to block the website. The target audience of the site was identified as Sri Lankan policymakers based in Colombo, traditional media and journalists, civil society actors, human rights activists as well as 2nd and 3rd generation diaspora (youth). Given the unprecedented violence directed against independent traditional print and electronic media, the Internet and web became the primary means through which civil society found expression during the years of heightened war in Sri Lanka. The site now receives over 2,000 pageviews a day and is one of the best-known web and new media based initiatives in the country. In 2007, Groundviews was the first media initiative in the country to set up a mobile content delivery mechanisms, a Twitter feed and a Facebook Fan page. In December 2007 the site was awarded an Award of Excellence in New Communications from the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) based in Boston. “Groundviews exemplifies the mission of this awards program: the successful and innovative use of new communications solutions and social media practices to enhance communications and relationships” commented Mike Manuel, SNCR Best Practices Committee Chairman (see http://www.groundviews.org/2007/12/05/groundviews-wins-2007-award-of-excellence-in-new-communications-from-society-for-new-communications-research/). In 2009 it was awarded the prestigious Manthan Award South Asia in 2009. The grand jury’s evaluation of the site noted, “What no media dares to report, Groundviews publicly exposes. It’s a new age media for a new Sri Lanka… Free media at it’s very best!” Groundviews is the only citizen journalism website in Sri Lanka to be directly indexed on Google News (http://news.google.com) and ranked Number 1 on Google by keyword. Articles on the site are regularly republished in other leading local and international media, including, inter alia, websites such as InfoLanka News, Tamil Canadian, New York Times and the BBC. These articles have exposed rights abuses, the absence of ethics in traditional media and the growing democratic deficit in Sri Lanka. Leading journalists and civil society activists have sent content to be published on the site. The respect for and recognition of for insightful, sui generis and courageous content on the site is well established amongst key stakeholders in media, polity and society in Sri Lanka.
What we deliver?
International award winning citizen journalism content, with perspectives, news and analysis that mainstream media cannot or will not publish or broadcast. This content interrogates governance, human rights and democracy to an extent, and in a manner, mainstream media in Sri Lanka are hard-pressed to follow on account of severe restrictions on independent and investigative journalism during and even post-war. Through our curated Twitter feed, we deliver content to over 500 readers at the moment sourced from both Groundviews and also other web sources, flagging both concerns over and key developments regarding democracy, human rights and peace in Sri Lanka.
Why is the project unique?
There is no other comparable citizen journalism site in Sri Lanka that leverages new media and mobiles in content sourcing and dissemination. Our reach is both local and global, and our content is now on the radar of key policy makers, government, the diplomatic community, bilateral and multilateral donors and the UN. Furthermore, there is no other media website that uses a combination of prose, poetry, satire, photography and video to flag issues that are critical to peacebuilding, human rights and democratic governance in Sri Lanka. Groundviews is a catalyst for progressive debate on highly contentious issues. The editorial framework for commentary excludes vicious and vituperative input, thereby maintain a standard of engagement that encourages the respect of difference and the diversity of opinion. This makes the site appealing to a broad constituency ranging from government to NGOs, from domestic voices to those in the diaspora, from youth to elder statespersons and diplomats and importantly, those from every community and ethnic group in Sri Lanka. There is no other website in Sri Lanka providing content for mobiles and Web 2.0 platforms, and in fact uses such services and platforms for content generation, in the manner Groundviews does.
Centre for Policy Alternatives
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