Groundviews published 142 articles over 2013. Our Facebook fan page grew by over 4,000. Our Twitter feed, the most probing, interactive and engaging of any media related Twitter account in Sri Lanka, grew by 3,000 followers. Given the site’s guidelines, which require Editorial vetting of all content, at a conservative average of 2,000 words per article, I’ve looked at over 280,000 words of original content over 2013, plus well over that word count in comments. I’ve also penned over 10,000 tweets this year, averaging around 800 a month.
It’s been utterly exhausting – curating the site from airports, train stations, in public transport, from my car parked on the side of a road, over a range of devices and connections to the web, at all hours of the day, including staying up most of the night in New York after around a 24 hour journey there just to support through live updates of an important gathering in Sri Lanka.
It’s also been extremely fulfilling to give voice to and a space for issues and people mainstream media in Sri Lanka does not, and will not capture. Some highlights for me include the launch of the new version of the site, Sri Lanka’s first and to date only fully HTML5 compliant, responsive media website, allowing anyone, from any device including smartphones and tablets (save for ageing BlackBerry’s), access the site content. The new site also features high-resolution images and a crisp web font, both specifically designed for Apple’s Retina’s displays on the Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPads and other high-resolution screens like the Google Chromebook.
Content-wise, we launched Sri Lanka’s first, and to date only media relatedFlipBoard magazine for tablets, smartphones and the desktop, with now around 150 readers. To commemorate 3 decades since the infamous anti-Tamil pogrom of July 1983, Groundviews curated and launched a critically acclaimed initiative called ’30 Years Ago’, which has its own website. Historically vital audio recordings from four sessions held during the exhibition in Colombo were also made available online.
Throughout the year, the site published stories on the web, on Facebook and via Twitter well before other mainstream media, or to address a media blackout. Ourcoverage of CHOGM 2013 was resulted in the site crashing a number of times because of the traffic load. The site gave space to activists whose murder was openly discussed on live State radio (also see this tweet thread) to articulate concerns over media ethics and their own safety and security. We published disturbing reports of enforced birth control amongst Tamils in the North of Sri Lanka, and over controversial moves to ban the niqab in a leading University.
One of our most read stories this year was around what a brutish senior government minister did to Mohammed Irshad three years ago, and the trauma he and his whole family suffer to date in exile. We openly called out the blatant lies by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the United Nations as well as by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister on militarisation in the North, launched an international media fellowship programme with Canada, and spoke in Toronto tocommemorate Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Groundviews also features complete, indexed and open archives of the historically unprecedented Twitter Q&A’s with Lalith Weeratunga, the Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka as well as the complete sham of an effort with thePresident himself, while he was attending the GA sessions in New York.
The site also extensively covered the growth of Islamophobia in Sri Lanka over 2013, and the growing violence of Sinhala-Buddhist extremism supported by the highest levels of Government. We began the year by some of the most in-depth coverage of the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, including a legal primer for non-legal experts as well as a short form video Q&A with one of the country’s leading constitutional theorists.
Through content unique to the Groundviews, we bid a sad farewell to friend and mentor Sunila Abeysekera in September and to the equally irreplaceable Nelson Mandela in December. Throughout the year, we extensively featured the compelling photography of Vikalpa, our sister civic media web initiative in Sinhala. As recognised by Freedom House in 2013, Groundviews provides “… news and a range of commentary, even on sensitive stories and events that are barely covered by the mainstream media.” All of this content is generated by a few voices, largely in and from Sri Lanka, fighting for a just peace, with dignity for all and stronger democratic governance.
Hope to see you contribute and engage over 2014 as well.
Season’s greetings and best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy New Year.
Founder and Curator, Groundviews