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When protest is citizen journalism

May 1, 2012

Groundviews is the pioneering citizen journalism platform created by Sanjana Hattotuwa under the auspices of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo. From its origins in a deeply polarised moment of conflict, Groundviews has been a space where very divergent opinions could be aired and debated. Such has been the quality of the content, that this has become a go-to site for those interested in Sri Lankan politics. 

Last week, when a mob stormed and vandalized a mosque in Dambulla with the support of local clerics, Groundviews took its work up a notch by launching a trilingual blog-cum-online petition: Not in our name

Simply reconstructing the sequence of events and stating their consequences, the blog invites readers: 

“We have a choice, but time is running out. Speak up. Put your name in a comment below, in English, Sinhala or Tamil. Say that last week’s violence was not in your name. Renounce a fringe lunacy and resist extremism. By putting your name below, oppose mob violence and bigotry as ways to resolve disputes.”

In less than a week, hundreds of Sri Lankans have signed up. The comment space gives each individual voice a platform that online petitions don’t allow. And coming from CPA/Groundviews, it is a plausible platform. 

In addition, Twitter and other social networks are being used effectively to draw attention to this campaign. Groundviews’ Twitter channel draws attention to new signatories, famous and otherwise: 

@Groundviews Former High Commissioner to #India, Mangala Moonesinghe signs up to Not In Our Name Have you?#srilanka#lka1 hour ago

I wanted to blog about this on this peace journalism monitor because even as journalism has become so much more than a morning newspaper or a news broadcast, there are few who have been able to harness its potential creatively and inclusively. The “Not in our names” campaign takes citizen journalism and the use of social media to a new level. 

Every now and then you come across a campaign like this and are filled with admiration… and envy. Now why didn’t we think of doing this? 

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