Sri Lanka State of the Media Report’s Tamil version released in Jaffna

Rebuilding Public Trust: Tamil version copies displayed at the launch in Jaffna, 24 Jan 2017

Rebuilding Public Trust: Tamil version copies displayed at the launch in Jaffna, 24 Jan 2017

Journalists, academics, politicians and civil society representatives joined the launch of Tamil language version of Sri Lanka’s Media Development Indicators (MDI) Report in Jaffna on 24 January 2017.

The report, titled Rebuilding Public Trust: An Assessment of the Media Industry and Profession in Sri Lanka, contains 101 recommendations for media sector reforms needed at different levels – in government policies, laws and regulations, as well as within the media industry, media profession and media teaching.

The report, for which I served as overall editor, is the outcome of a 14-month-long consultative process that involved media professionals, owners, managers, academics and relevant government officials. It offers a timely analysis, accompanied by policy directions and practical recommendations.

The original report was released on World Press Freedom Day (3 May 2016) at a Colombo meeting attended by the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Minister of Mass Media.

The Jaffna launch event was organised by the Department of Media Studies of the University of Jaffna, the Jaffna Press Club and the National Secretariat for Media Reforms (NSMR).

Students of Jaffna University Media Studies programme with its head, Dr S Raguram, at the launch of MDI Sri Lanka Tamil version, Jaffna, 24 January 2017

Students of Jaffna University Media Studies programme with its head, Dr S Raguram, at the launch of MDI Sri Lanka Tamil version, Jaffna, 24 January 2017

Reginald Cooray, Governor of the Northern Province, in a message said: “I am sure that the elected leaders and the policy makers of this government of Good governance will seize the opportunity to make a professionally ethical media environment in Sri Lanka which will strengthen the democracy and good governance.”

He added: “The research work should be studied, appreciated and utilised by the leaders and the policy makers. Everyone who was involved in the work should be greatly thanked for their research presentation with clarity.”

Lars Bestle of International Media Support (IMS) speaks at Sri Lanka MDI Report's Tamil version launch in Jaffna, 24 January 2017

Lars Bestle of International Media Support (IMS) speaks at Sri Lanka MDI Report’s Tamil version launch in Jaffna, 24 January 2017

Speaking at the event, Sinnadurai Thavarajah, Leader of the Opposition of the Northern Provincial Council, urged journalists to separate facts from their opinions. “Media freedom is important, but so is unbiased and balanced reporting,” he said.

Lars Bestle, Head of Department for Asia and Latin America at International Media Support (IMS), which co-published the report, said: “Creating a healthy environment for the media that is inclusive of the whole country is an essential part of ensuring democratic transition.”

He added: “This assessment points the way forward. It is now up to the local actors – government, civil society, media, businesses and academia – with support from international community, to implement its recommendations.”

Nalaka Gunawardene, Consultant Editor of Sri Lanka Media Development Indicators (MDI) Report, speaks at the launch of Tamil version in Jaffna on 24 Jan 2017

Nalaka Gunawardene, Consultant Editor of Sri Lanka Media Development Indicators (MDI) Report, speaks at the launch of Tamil version in Jaffna on 24 Jan 2017

I introduced the report’s key findings and recommendations. In doing so, I noted how the government has welcomed those recommendations applicable to state policies, laws and regulations and already embarked on law review and regulatory reforms. In sharp contrast, there has been no reaction whatsoever from the media owners and media gatekeepers (editors).

Quote from 'Rebuilding Public Trust' - State of Sri Lanka's media report

Quote from ‘Rebuilding Public Trust’ – State of Sri Lanka’s media report

Dr S Raguram, Head of Media Studies at the University of Jaffna (who edited the Tamil version) and Jaffna Press Club president Ratnam Thayaparan also spoke.

The report comes out at a time when the country’s media industry and profession face multiple crises stemming from an overbearing state, unpredictable market forces and rapid technological advancements.

Balancing the public interest and commercial viability is one of the media sector’s biggest challenges today. The report says: “As the existing business models no longer generate sufficient income, some media have turned to peddling gossip and excessive sensationalism in the place of quality journalism. At another level, most journalists and other media workers are paid low wages which leaves them open to coercion and manipulation by persons of authority or power with an interest in swaying media coverage.”

Notwithstanding these negative trends, the report notes that there still are editors and journalists who produce professional content in the public interest while also abiding by media ethics. Unfortunately, their work is eclipsed by media content that is politically partisan and/or ethnically divisive.

The result: public trust in media has been eroded, and younger Lankans are increasingly turning to entirely web-based media products and social media platforms for information and self-expression. A major overhaul of media’s professional standards and ethics is needed to reverse these trends.

MDI Sri Lanka - Tamil version being presented to stakeholders in Jaffna, 24 Jan 2017

MDI Sri Lanka – Tamil version being presented to stakeholders in Jaffna, 24 Jan 2017

MDI Sri Lanka - Tamil version being presented to stakeholders in Jaffna, 24 Jan 2017

MDI Sri Lanka – Tamil version being presented to stakeholders in Jaffna, 24 Jan 2017

The Tamil report is available for free download at:

https://www.mediasupport.org/publication/rebuilding-public-trust-media-assessment-sri-lanka-tamil-language-version/

The English original report is at:

https://www.mediasupport.org/publication/rebuilding-public-trust-assessment-media-industry-profession-sri-lanka/

Read my July 2010 op-ed: [Op-ed] Major Reforms Needed to Rebuild Public Trust in Sri Lanka’s Media

සිවුමංසල කොලූගැටයා #257: 21 වන සියවසේ අපේ මාධ්‍ය පරිභෝජන රටා වෙනස් වන සැටි

CPA Study on consumption and perceptions of mainstream and social media in the Western Province of Sri Lanka - Jan 2016

CPA Study on consumption and perceptions of mainstream and social media in the Western Province of Sri Lanka – Jan 2016

In this week’s Ravaya column (appearing in issue of 14 February 2016), I discuss key findings of the top-line report of a survey on the consumption and perceptions of mainstream and social media in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. It was launched on 27 January 2016 by the non-profit research and advocacy group, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).

The report draws on a survey of 1,743 randomly selected men and women, interviewed in Sinhala or Tamil language during June-July 2015. They were asked about mobile phone use and web access. The survey was conducted by Social Indicator, CPA’s survey research unit.

As the launch media release noted, “From the use of Facebook to smartphones, from news on TV to news via SMS, from how information read digitally is spread to others who are offline, the report offers insights into how content is produced, disseminated and discussed in Sri Lanka’s most densely populated province and home to the country’s administrative and business hubs.”

I was one of the launch speakers, and my presentation was titled: Information Society is Rising in Sri Lanka: ARE YOU READY?

Dilrukshi Handunnetti (centre) speaks as Nalaka Gunawardene (left) and Iromi Perera listen at the launch on 27 Jan 2016 in Colombo

Dilrukshi Handunnetti (centre) speaks as Nalaka Gunawardene (left) and Iromi Perera listen at the launch on 27 Jan 2016 in Colombo

අපේ රටේ වඩාත්ම පුළුල්ව භාවිත වන සන්නිවේදන මාධ්‍යය කුමක්ද?

විටින් විට සරසවිවලදී හා වෙනත් මහජන සභාවන්හිදී මා කරන දේශනවලදී මේ ප‍්‍රශ්නය මතු කරනවා. සභාවේ සිටින අයගේ දැනුම හා ආකල්ප ගැන හොඳ ඉඟියක් ඔවුන් මෙයට පිළිතුරු දෙන ආකාරයෙන් මට ලද හැකියි.

නිවැරදි පිළිතුර රේඩියෝ බවට තර්ක කරන අය මට තවමත් හමු වනවා. ඔවුන්ගේ දැනුම දශක එක හමාරකට වඩා පැරණියි.

වසර 2000 පමණ වන තුරු මෙරට නිවෙස්වල බහුලවම හමු වූයේ රේඩියෝ යන්ත‍්‍ර බව ඇත්තයි. එහෙත් ඉනික්බිති ටෙලිවිෂන් යන්ත‍්‍ර එම තැන හිමි කර ගත්තා.

වසර තුනකට වරක් නිවාස 25,000ක පමණ විශාල දීපව්‍යාප්ත නියැදියක් හරහා රජයේ ජනලේඛන හා සංඛ්‍යා ලේඛන දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව කරන ගෘහස්ත ආදායම් හා වියදම් සමීක්ෂණවල ප‍්‍රතිඵල හරහා මෙය මනාව තහවුරු වනවා.

මෙවන් රාජ්‍ය සමීක්ෂණයකින් මතු වන සොයා ගැනීම් පවා සමහරුන් ප‍්‍රශ්න කරනවා. ‘සමීක්ෂණවලින් මොනවා සොයා ගත්තත් අපේ ගම්වල තාමත් වැඩි දෙනෙක් භාවිත කරන්නේ රේඩියෝව තමයි’ කියමින් රොමැන්ටික් ලෝකවල ජීවත් වන අය සිටිනවා.

2012 ජන සංගණනයේදී එක් ප‍්‍රශ්නයක් වූයේ නිවසේ තිබෙන සන්නිවේදන මෙවලම් ගැනයි. මුළු රටම සමීක්ෂාවට ලක් කළ මෙයින් හෙළි වූයේ රටේ නිවෙස්වල දැන් වැඩිපුරම ඇති සන්නිවේදන මෙවලම ජංගම දුරකතනය බවයි. (78.9%). එයට ආසන්නව දෙවැනි තැන ගන්නේ ටෙලිවිෂන් (78.3%). රේඩියෝව ලබා ඇත්තේ තෙවන ස්ථානයයි (68.9%).

මේ සංඛ්යා ලේඛන වාර්ෂිකව වෙනස් වනවා. අලූත්ම දත්ත හා විශ්ලේෂණ හරහා අපේ දැනුම යාවත්කාලීන කර ගැනීම ඉතා වැදගත්. නැතිනම් පිළුණු වූ දැනුම හරහා වැරදි නිගමන හා රොමාන්ටික් තර්කවලට එළැඹීමේ අවදානමක් තිබෙනවා.

සන්නිවේදන තාක්ෂණයන් හා සේවාවන් සමාජයක ප‍්‍රචලිත වීම ගැන රාජ්‍ය පර්යේෂණායතනවල සමීක්ෂණ හා අලෙවිකරණ දත්ත හරහා යම් අවබෝධයක් ලද හැකියි. මෙය මා දකින්නේ සන්නිවේදනයේ සැපයුම් පැත්ත (supply side of communications) හැටියටයි.

එහෙත් මෙහි ඉල්ලූම් පැත්ත හෙවත් ජන සමාජයේ විවිධ පුද්ගලයන් මේවා කිනම් භාවිතයන් සඳහා යොදා ගන්නවාද යන්න විමර්ශනය කිරීම වඩාත් අසීරුයි (demand side). එවන් ගවේෂණවලදී කිසිදු සන්නිවේදන මාධ්‍යයක් ගැන පූර්ව මතයක් හෝ නිගමනයක් හෝ තබා නොගෙන විවෘත මනසකින් තොරතුරු එක් රැස් කිරීම අත්‍යවශ්‍යයි.

මෙරට බස්නාහිර පළාතේ වැසියන් ප‍්‍රධාන ධාරාවේ මාධ්‍ය හා නව මාධ්‍ය භාවිත කරන සැටි ගැන කළ සමීක්ෂණයක ප‍්‍රතිඵල ජනවාරි 27දා නිකුත් වුණා. සමීක්ෂණය කළේ විකල්ප ප‍්‍රතිපත්ති කේන්ද්‍රයට (Centre for Policy Alternatives, CPA) අනුයුක්ත ජනමත විමසීම් අංශය වන Social Indicator ආයතනයයි. මෙහි ප්‍රතිඵල සන්නිවේදනයට සම්බන්ධ සැමගේ අවධානයට ලක් විය යුතුයි.

බස්නාහිර පළාත මේ සමීක්ෂණයට යොදා ගැනීම තේරුම් ගත හැකියි. රටේ දළ ජාතික නිෂ්පාදිතයෙන් 43%ක් දායක කරන මේ පළාත වැඩියෙන්ම ජනගහනය, මාධ්‍ය කර්මාන්ත හා තාක්ෂණ භාවිතය සංකේන්ද්‍රණය වී ඇති ප‍්‍රදේශයයි. එසේම ආදායම් මට්ටම් ද සාපේක්ෂව වැඩි නිසා නව තාක්ෂණයන් හා වෙළෙඳපොළ ප‍්‍රවණතා මුලින් ප‍්‍රචලිත වන්නේත් මේ පළාතේයි.

බස්නාහිර පළාත තුළ මාධ්‍ය භාවිතය අධ්‍යයනයෙන් දිවයිනේ සෙසු ප‍්‍රදේශවල ඒ ගැන ඉදිරි ප‍්‍රවණතා ගැන ඉඟියක් ලද හැකියි. මෙවන් සමීක්ෂණ දීපව්‍යාප්තව කිරීමට CPA අදහස් කරනවා.

2015 ජුනි-ජූලි වකවානුවේ ක්ෂේත‍්‍ර දත්ත එකතු කළ මේ සමීක්ෂණයට බස්නාහිර පළාත පුරාම විහිදුණු පුද්ගලයන් 1,743ක් සම්බන්ධ කරගනු ලැබුවා. සමීක්ෂණයට සහභාගි වන්නන් තෝරා ගැනීමට නිර්ණායක දෙකක් යොදා ගත්තා. එනම් ඔවුන් ජංගම දුරකතන භාවිත කිරීම හා ඉන්ටර්නෙට් පරිශීලනය කිරීමයි.

සිංහල හෝ දෙමළ බසින් සමීක්ෂකයන් අසන ප‍්‍රශ්නාවලියකට පිළිතුරු සටහන් කර ගත් අතර පිරිමි 55.8%ක් හා ගැහැනු 44.2%ක් සහභාගි වූවා. ඔවුන් තෝරා ගනු ලැබුවේ අලෙවිකරණ සමීක්ෂණ (market research) කිරීමේ ජාත්‍යන්තර ප‍්‍රමිතීන්ට අනුකූලව අහඹු ලෙසයි.

කාලීන තොරතුරු දැන ගැනීමට හා ඒවා අන් අය සමග බෙදා ගැනීමට කුමන සන්නිවේදන මාධ්‍ය භාවිත කරනවාද යන්න මෙහිදී සොයා බැලූණා. සමීක්ෂණයට සම්බන්ධ වූවන්ගෙන් අති බහුතරයක් (97.4%) එදිනෙදා පුවත් ගැන අතිශයින් හෝ තරමක් දුරට හෝ උනන්දුවක් දක්වන බව කීවා.

ඔවුන් බහුතරයකගේ වඩාත්ම ජනප‍්‍රිය පුවත් මූලාශ‍්‍රය වූයේ පෞද්ගලික ටෙලිවිෂන් සේවාවන්. ඉන් පසු වැඩිපුරම සඳහන් කෙරුණේ ෆේස්බුක් සමාජ මාධ්‍ය ජාලය හා සෙසු ඉන්ටර්නෙට් ප‍්‍රභවයන්.

මෙම පිළිතුරු වයස් කාණ්ඩ අනුව විග‍්‍රහ කළ විට වයස 18-24 පරාසයේ අයට නම් වඩාත්ම ප‍්‍රමුඛ පුවත් මූලාශ‍්‍රය වූයේ ෆේස්බුක්. දෙවැනි තැනට පුද්ගලික ටෙලිවිෂන් හා තෙවැනි තැනට සෙසු ඉන්ටර්නෙට් ප‍්‍රභවයන්.

පුවත්වල විශ්වසනීයත්වය ගැන ද ප‍්‍රශ්න කරනු ලැබුවා. ප‍්‍රතිචාරකයන් 63.1%ක් කීවේ විශ්වාස කළ හැකි පුවත් ප‍්‍රභවයන් එකකට වඩා තමන් දන්නා බවයි. සියලූ පුවත් මාධය තමන්ට එක හා සමාන බව කී 25.3%ක්ද කිසිදු මාධ්‍යයක් විශ්වාස නොකළ 10%ක්ද සිටියා.

සමීක්ෂණයට පාත‍්‍ර වූ අයගෙන් 50%ක්ම කීවේ ගෙවී ගිය වසර තුළ ප‍්‍රධාන ධාරාවේ මාධ්‍ය හෝ ඉන්ටර්නෙට් හරහා හෝ තමන් දැන ගත් සමාජයීය හෝ දේශපාලනික තොරතුරක් ගැන තමන් වැඩිදුර සොයා බැලූ හා දැනුවත් වූ බවයි.

එවන් තොරතුරක් ගැන කිසිදු ක‍්‍රියාමාර්ගයක් ගත්තාදැයි අසනු ලැබුවා. එහිදී ඉන්ටර්නෙට් හරහා ලද තොරතුරක් ගැන ක‍්‍රියාත්මක වූ සංඛ්‍යාව 22.9%ක් වූ අතර, ප‍්‍රධාන ධාරාවේ මාධ්‍යයකින් ලද තොරතුරක් නිසා යම් පියවරක් ගත් සංඛ්‍යාව මුළු නියැදියෙන් 20.8%ක් වුණා.

කුමක්ද මේ ක‍්‍රියාමාර්ගය? 61.5%ක් දෙනා පවුලේ අය හා හිතමිතුරන් දැනුවත් කිරීමට ඉන්ටර්නෙට් හරහා ලද තොරතුරු යොදා ගෙන තිබෙනවා. ඒ අතර 16.5%ක් දෙනා වෙබ්ගත සංවාදවලට සහභාගි වී තිබෙනවා.

මේ සොයා ගැනීම ඉතා වැදගත්. 2015 ජූනි නිකුත් කළ විදුලි සංදේශ නියාමන කොමිසමේ (TRC) නිල දත්තවලට අනුව මෙරට සමස්ත ඉන්ටර්නෙට් ගිණුම් සංඛ්‍යාව මිලියන 4.3යි. සමහර ගිණුම් එක් අයකුට වඩා භාවිත කරන නිසා ඉන්ටර්නෙට් පරිශීලනය කරන සංඛ්‍යාව මිලියන 6ක් හෝ ජනගහනයෙන් 28%ක් පමණ යැයි අපට ඇස්තමේන්තු කළ හැකියි.

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මෙය තවමත් සංඛ්‍යාත්මකව සුළුතරයක් බව ඇත්තයි. එහෙත් ඉහත සොයා ගැනීම තහවුරු කරන පරිදි ඉන්ටර්නෙට් ඍජුව භාවිත කරන අය ලබා ගන්නා තොරතුරු හා අදහස් ඔවුන් විසින් තම තමන්ගේ සමීපතයන් හා පෞද්ගලික ජාලයන් සමග බෙදා ගැනෙනවා. මේ හරහා වෙබ්ගත අන්තර්ගතය එහි සෘජුව නොගැවසෙන විශාල පිරිසක් අතරට ද කාන්දු වනවා.

විශේෂයෙන් ගුරුවරුන්, මාධ්‍යවේදීන්, පර්යේෂකයන් වැනි අයගේ තොරතුරු විකාශය කිරීමේ (information amplification) විභවය ඉහළයි. ගමක හෝ ප‍්‍රජාවක එක් අයකු ස්මාට්ෆෝන් හරහා ඉන්ටර්නෙට් පිවිසීම කළොත් කාලීන තොරතුරු එම ගමටම ගලා යාමේ හැකියාව ඉහළයි.

ඉන්ටර්නෙට් සුළුතරයකගේ සුපිරි මාධ්‍යයක්ය කියමින් එය ගැන එතරම් නොතකන පණ්ඩිතයන් නොදකින යථාර්ථය මෙයයි!

CPA සමීක්ෂණයට සහභාගි වූවන්ගෙන් 77.3%ක්ම ඉන්ටර්නෙට් පිවිසියේ තම ස්මාට්ෆෝන් හරහා. මෙය දීපව්‍යාප්ත TRC සංඛ්‍යා ලේඛනය වන 83%ට සමීපයි.

අලූත් තොරතුරක් ලද විට එය බෙදා ගැනීම මානව ගති සොබාවක්. මේ පුරුද්දට ජංගම දුරකතන හා ඉන්ටර්නෙට් භාවිතය හරහා ලොකු තල්ලූවක් ලැබෙනවා.

සිත් ගන්නා පුවතක් හෝ ලිපියක් හෝ ඊමේල් මගින් ලදහොත් එය අන් අය සමග ත්‍බදා ගන්නට කැමති බව සමීක්ෂණයේ ප‍්‍රතිචාරකයන් 55.9%ක් කියා තිබෙනවා. ඒ සඳහා ඊමේල් (23.6%), සමාජ මාධ්‍ය (18.4%) හෝ ඒ දෙකම (13.9%) යොදා ගන්නවා.

වැදගත් හෝ සිත් ගන්නා යමක් ඔබේ ජංගම දුරකතනයට ලැබුණොත් කුමක් කරනවාද? මේ ප‍්‍රශ්නයට 24.2%ක් දෙනා කීවේ එක්කෝ කෙටි පණිවුඩයක් (SMS) හෝ ක්ෂණික පණිවුඩ යෙදුමක් (Instant Messaging, IM) හරහා බෙදා ගන්නා බවයි. 16.6% කීවේ එම තොරතුර සමාජ ජාල හරහා ‘ෂෙයාර්’ කරන බවයි. මේ දෙකම කරන බව කී පිරිස 16.2%ක් ද සිටියා.

මෙසේ පුළුල්ව බෙදා ගැනීමේ හොඳ නරක දෙකම තිබෙනවා. සමබර තොරතුරු මෙන්ම අසත්‍ය හෝ අන්තවාදී තොරතුරු ද ඉක්මනින් පැතිර යා හැකියි.

ප‍්‍රතිචාරකයන් 37.2%ක් කීවේ යම් පුවතක් ඍජුව වෙබ් අඩවියක පළ වී තිබී දැන ගන්නවාට වඩා එම පුවතම මිතුරන්/සහෘදයන් මගින් ඊමේල් හෝ සමාජ මාධ්‍ය හෝ හරහා ලද හොත් තමන් එය වඩාත් විශ්වාස කරන බවයි.

එසේම 51.1%ක් දෙනා කීවේ මින් පෙර තමන් කිස්සේත් විශ්වාස නොකළ පුවතක්, තම මිතුරකු විසින් සමාජ මාධ්‍යයක් හරහා බෙදා ගත් විට එම පුවත ගැන මුලින් දැක්වූ අවිශ්වාසය පසෙක ලා තමන් එය නැවත සලකා බැලිය හැකි බවයි.

මෙසේ සහෘදයන් විසින් යමක් ෂෙයාර්කිරීම හරහා එහි විශ්වසනීයත්වය වැඩි කර ගැනීම ඉන්ටර්නෙට් මාධ්‍ය පුරාම දැකිය හැකි ප‍්‍රවණතාවක්.

මාධ්‍ය අන්තර්ගතයේ විශ්වසනීයත්වය තහවුරු කර ගැනීම මාධ්‍ය සාක්ෂරතාවයේ වැදගත් අංගයක්. මෑතක් වන තුරු එය සදහා අප බොහෝ දෙනකු යොදා ගත්තේ අදාල මාධ්‍ය ආයතනයෙහි සමස්ත කෙරුවාව හා අදාල ලේඛකයාගේ මීට පෙර ක‍්‍රියාකලාපය ආදී සාධකයි. සහෘදයන් විසින් නිර්දේශ කරනු ලැබීම දැන් ප‍්‍රබල සාධකයක්ව තිබෙනවා.

එහෙත් යමක් ලියූ තැනැත්තා තවමත් බොහෝ දෙනකුට වැදගත්. පුවත්පතක හෝ ඉන්ටර්නෙට් ප‍්‍රභවයක පුවතක් හෝ ලිපියක් ලියූ ලේඛකයාගේ නම තමන් සැළකිල්ලට ගන්නා බව 63.2%ක් දෙනා කියනවා.

2015දී තීරණාත්මක ජාතික මැතිවරණ දෙකක් මෙරට පැවැත් වුණා. මැතිවරණ කාලයේදී වැඩිම විශ්වාසයක් තිබෙන තොරතුරු මූලාශ‍්‍රය කුමක්ද?

වැඩිම පිරිසක් (40.3%ක්) මැතිවරණ කාලයේදී වඩාත්ම විශ්වාස කළේ පෞද්ගලික ටෙලිවිෂන් නාලිකායි. ඉතිරි අයගෙන් 18.3%ක් කීවේ ඉන්ටර්නෙට් බවයි. තවත් 16%ක් ෆේස්බුක් මුල් තැනට පත් කළා. පත්තර හා රේඩියෝ ගැන මහජන විශ්වාසය බෙහෙවින් අඩු වෙලා!

මහජනතාව සමග සබඳතා පැවැත්වීමට රජයේ ඇමතිවරුන් නිල වශයෙන් සමාජ මාධ්‍ය භාවිත කිරීම අවශ්‍ය බව 42.2%ක් දෙනා විශ්වාස කරනවා. තවත් 26.2%ක් දෙනා එය තරමක් දුරට හෝ අවශ්‍ය යයි කියනවා. (මෙහිදී කතා කරන්නේ දේශපාලන ප‍්‍රතිරූප වර්ධනය නොව අමාත්‍යාංශවල මහජන තොරතුරු හා සේවා සැපයීමට සෙසු ක‍්‍රමවේදයන්ට අමතරව සමාජ මාධ්‍ය ද යොදා ගැනීම ගැනයි. ඉන්දියාවේ නරේන්ද්‍ර මෝඩි රජය මෙය සියලූ රාජ්‍ය ආයතනවලට අනිවාර්ය කොට තිබෙනවා.)

දේශීය භාෂාවලින් වෙබ් අන්තර්ගතය සීමිත වීම පෙර තරම් දරුණු නොවූවත් තවමත් බලපාන සාධකයක්. සිංහලෙන් හා දෙමළෙන් තොරතුරු හා වෙබ් අඩවි වැඩි වේ නම් තමන් ඉන්ටර්නෙට් භාවිතයද වැඩි කරන බව සමීක්ෂණයට පාත‍්‍ර වූවන්ගෙන් 57.1%ක් දෙනා කියා සිටියා.

එසේම 60.4%ක් කීවේ තමන්ට දත්ත භාවිතය වෙනුවෙන් වැඩිපුර ගෙවීමේ හැකියාවක් තිබේ නම් ඉන්ටර්නෙට් භාවිතය වැඩි වනු ඇති බවයි.

L to R - Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Iromi Perera, Sanjana Hattotuwa at CPA report launch, Colombo, 27 Jan 2016

L to R – Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Iromi Perera, Sanjana Hattotuwa at CPA report launch, Colombo, 27 Jan 2016

දැනට පවත්නා ඉන්ටර්නෙට් වේගයන්වල මදකමද සමහරුන්ගේ මැසිවිල්ලට හේතුවක්. යම් ඉහළ මිලක් ගෙවා තමන්ට වඩා වේගවත් ඉන්ටර්නෙට් සේවා ලද හැකි නම් එය සලකා බලන බව 30.8%ක් දෙනා කීවා. තවත් 42.5%ක් සමහරවිට එසේ කරනු ඇතැයි කීවා.

ඊමේල් හා වෙබ් ප‍්‍රභවයන්ට අමතරව SMS පුවත් සේවාවන්ට මිලක් ගෙවා බැඳී ඇති පිරිස සමීක්ෂණයේ ප‍්‍රතිචාරකයන් අතරින් 34.8%ක් වූවා.

මේ සමීක්ෂණයේ ප‍්‍රතිඵල විවිධ අයුරින් විග‍්‍රහ කළ හැකියි. එය එළි දැක්වීමේදී මා කීවේ මෙවන් සමීක්ෂණ දත්ත පොදු අවකාශයේ බෙදා ගැනීම වැදගත් බවයි. අලෙවිකරණ පර්යේෂණායතන කරන බොහෝ සමීක්ෂණ ප‍්‍රකාශයට පත් වන්නේ නැහැ.

එසේම වයස 18-24 පරාසයේ ජන කාණ්ඩයේ මාධ්‍ය භාවිතය සෙසු සමාජයට වඩා සැලකිය යුතු ලෙසින් වෙනස් වීම සමීප අධ්‍යයනයට ලක් කළ යුතු බව මා අවධාරණය කළා.

ඔවුන් පත්තර කියවන්නේ, රේඩියෝ හා ටෙලිවිෂන් සමග බද්ධ වන්නේද ඩිජිටල් ස්මාට්ෆෝන් හරහායි. එසේම ඔවුන් නිශ්ක්‍රිය මාධ්‍ය පාරිභෝගිකයන් නොවෙයි. ඔවුන් බොහෝ දෙනකු මාධ්‍යවලට එසැනින් ප්‍රතිචාර දක්වනවා. ප්‍රධාන ධාරාවේ මාධ්‍ය මෙන්ම වෙබ් අන්තර්ගතයන්ද විචාරයට ලක් කරනවා. තමන්ගේම මාධ්‍ය නිර්මාණ (මීම්, කෙටි වීඩියෝ ආදිය) නිපදවා වෙබ් හරහා බෙදා ගන්නවා.

ඉදිරි වසරවලදී මෙරට මාධ්‍ය ග්‍රාහකයන් ලෙස වඩාත් ප්‍රබල වන්නේ මේ පිරිසයි. අපේ ගතානුගතිකයන් කැමති වූවත් නැතත් අනාගතය මේ තරුණ තරුණියන් අතින් හැඩ ගැසෙනවා. ඔවුන්ගේ ගති සොබා දැන ගනීම හා ඔවුන්ට සමීප වන මාර්ග සොයා ගැනීම දේශපාලන පක්ෂ, සිවිල් සමාජ හා සමාගම් යන සියලු පාර්ශවයන්ට එක සේ වැදගත්.

සම්පූර්ණ CPA වාර්තාව මෙතැනින්: www.bit.ly/mediasurveywp

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Information Society is Rising in Sri Lanka: ARE YOU READY?

Launch of the top-line report of a survey on the consumption and perceptions of mainstream and social media in the Western Province of Sri Lanka, 27 Jan 2016

Launch of the top-line report of a survey on the consumption and perceptions of mainstream and social media in the Western Province of Sri Lanka, 27 Jan 2016

On 27 January 2016, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) launched the top-line report of a survey on the consumption and perceptions of mainstream and social media in the Western Province of Sri Lanka.

I was one of the launch speakers, and my presentation was titled: Information Society is Rising in Sri Lanka: ARE YOU READY?

The report draws on a survey of 1,743 randomly selected men and women, interviewed in Sinhala or Tamil language during June-July 2015. They were asked about mobile phone use and web access. The survey was conducted by Social Indicator, CPA’s survey research unit.

As the launch media release noted, “From the use of Facebook to smartphones, from news on TV to news via SMS, from how information read digitally is spread to others who are offline, the report offers insights into how content is produced, disseminated and discussed in Sri Lanka’s most densely populated province and home to the country’s administrative and business hubs.

It added: “The report offers government, media, civil society and social entrepreneurs insights into the platforms, vectors, languages and mediums through which news & information can best seed the public imagination.”

Dilrukshi Handunnetti (centre) speaks as Nalaka Gunawardene (left) and Iromi Perera listen at the launch on 27 Jan 2016 in Colombo

Dilrukshi Handunnetti (centre) speaks as Nalaka Gunawardene (left) and Iromi Perera listen at the launch on 27 Jan 2016 in Colombo – Photo by Sampath Samarakoon

In my remarks, I said it was vital to draw more insights on what I saw as ‘demand-side’ of media. But at the same time, I noted how a growing number of media consumers are no longer passively receiving, but also critiquing, repackaging and generating related (or new) content on their own.

I applauded the fact that this survey’s findings are shared in the public domain – in fact, Iromi Perera, head of Social Indicator, offered to share the full dataset with any interested person. This contrasts with similar surveys conducted by market research companies that are, by their very nature, not going to be made public.

A case in point: Jaffna has highest per capita Internet penetration in Sri Lanka, according to a market research by TNS Sri Lanka – but neither the findings nor methodology is available for scrutiny.

Why do demand-side insights being available in the public domain matter so much? I cited four key reasons:

  • The new government is keen on media sector reforms at policy and regulatory levels: these should be based on evidence and sound analysis, not conjecture.
  • Media, telecom and digital industries are converging: everyone looking for ‘killer apps’ and biz opps (but only some find it).
  • Media companies are competing for a finite advertising budget: knowing more about media consumption can help improve production and delivery.
  • Advertisers want the biggest bang for their buck: Where are eyeballs? How to get to them? Independent studies can inform sound decision-making.

On this last point, I noted how Sri Lanka’s total ad spend up to and including 2014 does not show any significant money going into digital advertising. According to Neilsen Sri Lanka, ad-spending is dominated by broadcast TV, followed by radio an print. Experience elsewhere suggests this is going to change – but how soon, and what can guide new digital ad spending? Studies like this can help.

I also highlighted some interesting findings of this new study, such as:

  • Private TV is most popular source of news, followed by Facebook/web.
  • Across different age groups, smartphone is the device most used to access web
  • Online culture of sharing engenders TRUST: peer influence is becoming a key determinant in how fast and widely a given piece of content is consumed

None of this surprises me, and in fact confirms my own observations as a long-standing observer and commentator of the spread of ICTs in Sri Lanka.

Everyone – from government and political parties to civil society groups and corporates – who want to engage the Lankan public must take note of the changing media consumption and creation patterns indicated by this study, I argued.

I identified these big challenges particularly for civil society and others engaged in public interest communication (including mainstream and citizen journalists):

  • Acknowledge that we live in a media-rich information society (Get used to it!)
  • Appreciate that younger Lankans consume and process media content markedly differently from their elders and previous generations
  • Understand these differences (stop living in denial)
  • Leverage the emerging digital pathways and channels for social advocacy & public interest work

In my view, rising to this challenge is not a CHOICE, but an IMPERATIVE!

I ended reiterating my call for more research on information society issues, and with particular focus on mobile web content access which trend dominates user behaviour in Sri Lanka.

Award winning journalist Dilrukshi Handunnetti, and head of Social Indicator Iromi Perera were my fellow panelists at the launch, which was moderated by the study’s co-author and CPA senior researcher Sanjana Hattotuwa.

L to R - Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Iromi Perera, Sanjana Hattotuwa at CPA report launch, Colombo, 27 Jan 2016

L to R – Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Iromi Perera, Sanjana Hattotuwa at CPA report launch, Colombo, 27 Jan 2016

Op Ed: Let’s Get Real about Sri Lanka’s Urbanization!

On 12 November 2015, Daily Mirror broadsheet newspaper in Sri Lanka published my op-ed essay on the need to take a new look at urbanization in Sri Lanka.

It is reproduced here in full:

Let’s Get Real about Sri Lanka’s Urbanization!

By Nalaka Gunawardene

The level of urbanization is an indicator of a country’s economic development and the living standards of its people.

Some purists might disagree, but it is universally agreed that urban areas – cities and towns of various size and shape – offer better facilities and opportunities for their residents.

So how urbanized is Sri Lanka? Many among us keep repeating a notion that ‘we are predominantly rural’, but is it really so?

The 2012 Census of Population and Housing categorised only 18.2% of the Lankan population as being urban. However, that figure is highly misleading because we currently use a narrow definition.

Currently, only those living in Municipal Council (MC) or Urban Council (UC) areas are considered urban. However, some Pradeshiya Sabha areas (the next local government unit) are just as urbanised.

Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Champika Ranawaka speaks at LBO-LBR Infrastructure Summit 2015 (Image courtesy LBO)

Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Champika Ranawaka speaks at LBO-LBR Infrastructure Summit 2015 (Image courtesy LBO)

At the recent LBR/LBO Infrastructure Summit 2015 held in Colombo in early November, Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Champika Ranawaka took on this myth head on. He argued that Sri Lanka’s urban population share is probably as high as 48% — which is two and a half times higher than the current figure.

He mentioned as examples Pradeshiya Sabha areas like Homagama, Beruwala and Weligama that are administratively classified as ‘rural’ despite having many urban characteristics.

His concern: misconceptions such as this distort the country’s policy decisions on infrastructure planning and urban development.

The World Bank’s global lead for urban development strategies, Sumila Gulyani, who spoke during the opening session, agreed with the Minister’s contention of nearly half of Sri Lanka’s population having already become urban.

The Bank’s own estimates are roughly the same, she said. “The official statistics of urban population in Sri Lanka is from 14% to 18% — but if you look at the agglomeration, it is (actually) around 47%”.

World Bank's Sumila Gulyani speaks in Colombo, 3 Nov 2015. (Image courtesy LBO)

World Bank’s Sumila Gulyani speaks in Colombo, 3 Nov 2015. (Image courtesy LBO)

She added: “All South Asia countries under-state their urbanization level relative to, say, Latin America. In India it’s the same story. The reason has traditionally been that the rural areas got more national subsidy programmes — and no administration wanted to be called urban!”

Taking South Asia as a whole, 30% of its combined population now lives in cities. A massive rise in this urban share is expected in the coming decades. Sri Lanka cannot buck this trend.

Despite this, old myths linger on for years. The problem, as Gulyani highlighted, is in the mismatch of capabilities: “If the (local government) council that is managing an urban area is a rural council, you are not going to see the kind of planning and urban management you need to see for productive urban growth.”

 Hidden Urbanization

Copy of Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia - new World Bank ReportMeanwhile, a new World Bank report on urban trends in South Asia reminds us that Sri Lanka’s share of the population officially classified as living in urban areas actually fell slightly between 2000 and 2010.

“These official statistics, however, miss considerable ‘hidden’ urbanization,” says the report, titled Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability (September 2015).

The report suggests that as much as one-third of Sri Lanka’s population may be living in areas that, while not officially classified as urban, “nevertheless possess strong urban characteristics”.

This report tries to overcome our region’s data deficiencies by drawing on some unconventional data sources — such as nighttime lights and other forms of remotely sensed earth observation data.

Analysis of night lights has also revealed a more general growth of multi-city agglomerations – continuously lit belts of urbanization containing two or more sizeable cities – across South Asia. Their number has risen from 37 in 1999 to 45 in 2010.

In Sri Lanka, the report says, such ‘ribbon development’ radiates out from Colombo along major transport arteries to link it with both Kandy and Galle/Matara, revealing a dynamic urbanization process.

A general conclusion of the report is that South Asian countries urgent need to increase higher quality and more comprehensive data on urban trends and conditions.

South Asia at night - composite satellite image taken in April & Oct 2012 (Image courtesy NASA)

South Asia at night – composite satellite image taken in April & Oct 2012 (Image courtesy NASA)

Anomaly of 1987

 In Sri Lanka, the low figure for urban population is the direct result of an administrative decision to count all Pradeshiya Sabha areas as being rural. This has long been critiqued by experts such as town planner Prof Ashley L S Perera of the University of Moratuwa.

When the new local government unit was created in 1987 for political expediency, their demarcations totally ignored the existing ground realities, he says. That has led to much confusion about ‘urban areas’ in Sri Lanka for the past quarter century.

Statisticians in Sri Lanka’s government are also well aware of this. Analysing the key findings of the 2012 head count, the Department of Census and Statistics says that the country’s urban percentage “would have been much higher if the definitional issues were resolved”.

In its Census of Population and Housing 2012: Key Findings, the Department notes: “Areas coming under all Municipal Coun­cils (MC) and Urban Councils (UC) are currently considered as urban sector in Sri Lanka. Prior to 1987, Town Councils were also included in the definition of urban areas. With the setting up of Provincial Councils in 1987, these Town Councils were absorbed into Pradeshiya Sabhas which fall into the rural sector since then.”

After 1987, some towns lost their urban status and overnight became ‘officially rural’. The Department acknowledges that there are many areas outside MCs and UCs that “have urban outlook but still classified as rural”.

This leads to underestimation of the degree of urban­ization and comparison becomes difficult over the years, it says.

The Department highlights the need to “introduce a realistic definition of urban areas taking into account of the characteristics of the population rather than based on pure administrative considerations.”

It says that Sri Lanka’s urban percentage “would have been much higher if the definitional issues were resolved”.

At the time of the 2012 Census, Sri Lanka had a total of 23 MCs and 41 UCs. According to the Census findings, the country’s eight largest cities – Colombo, Kaduwela, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia, Moratuwa, Negombo, Kotte, Kesbewa and Maharagama – made up nearly half (48%) of what is officially considered the ‘urban’ population. All these are located in the Western Province.

The balance 56 urban areas include 26 small cities with population below 25,000. “This shows the uneven distribution of the urbanization” says the Department.

The Census found that in the Colombo district, three out of four people (77.6%) already live in urban ar­eas. Batticaloa (28.7%), Ampara (23.6%), Trincomalee (22.4%) districts in Eastern province and Mannar (24.5%), Vavuniya (20.2%), Jaffna (20.1%) districts in Northern province all have urbaniza­tion levels higher than the current national average of 18.2%.

Misleading the world

Adopting a more pragmatic and realistic definition of ‘urban’ is thus a policy priority for Sri Lanka. That can help better planning of our rapidly urbanising human habitats.

Such a move can, hopefully, also awaken those Lankans who insist about their ‘very rural island’ contrary to what the evidence suggests.

It would also stop international organisations and researchers from mistakenly labelling Sri Lanka as a country with only a small urban population.

World Urbanization Prospects 2014For example, World Urbanization Prospects 2014, a global overview published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, has listed Sri Lanka as one of 16 countries worldwide that “still have low levels of urbanization, i.e. below 20 per cent”. (As an inter-governmental body, the UN goes by national governmental data.)

The largest (by population) among these ‘low urbanized countries’, were listed as Burundi, Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, South Sudan, Uganda, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “By 2050, all of these countries are expected to become significantly more urbanized, with as much as twice their respective proportions urban in 2014,” the UN report noted.

However, as minister Ranawaka just publicly declared, that doubling has already happened in Sri Lanka! Now if only official data custodians can change definitions, we can finally move away from the illusion of being a rural country…

Census of Population and Housing 2012: Key Findings can be accessed online at: http://countryoffice.unfpa.org/srilanka/?publications=12333

Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene writes regularly on science, development and media issues. He blogs at http://nalakagunawardene.com

Solar Eclipse 15 Jan 2010: New media slowly eclipsing MSM in Sri Lanka?



The Annular Solar Eclipse, best seen from northern Sri Lanka and southern India on 15 January 2010, was not only a rare celestial event; it also marked a turning point in how the mainstream media (MSM) and new media cover a wide-spread news event (albeit a highly predictable one).

Where the island of Sri Lanka was concerned, it was the first solar eclipse of the broadband internet era — and that showed.

The last solar eclipse seen in Sri Lanka was two generations ago, on 20 June 1955. That was almost pre-historic in mass media terms. The newly independent Ceylon had a single, state-owned radio station and a handful of newspapers. There was no television, and the internet was not even conceived.

Yet, paradoxically, the media’s influence over the 8 million people then living on the island seem to have been greater at the time. As astronomer Dr Kavan Ratnatunga recalled: “A quack physician cum astrologer, recommended that women wanting to become fair and lovely should drink a decoction of which the main ingredient was “Vada Kaha” (Sweet Flag or Acorus Calamus) at the time of the total eclipse, preferably unseen by others. Many who took his advice ended up in hospital.”

Solar eclipse on 15 Jan 2010 seen in Anuradhapura, north-central Sri Lanka - photos by Reuters

In contrast, in 21st Century Sri Lanka, the January 15 eclipse was not much of a news story. I don’t claim to have done a systematic analysis, but my impressions are drawn from scanning the major newspaper websites in English and Sinhala, and surfing the dozen or more terrestrial (free-to-air, not cable) TV channels that were on the air during the three hours or so of the eclipse. (Sorry: I missed out radio, and I’m not proficient in Tamil.)

Broadcast television was my biggest disappointment. Solar eclipses are a visual spectacular, and literally heaven-sent for live television. Yet, not a single Lankan TV channel carried a live broadcast of the event, either from northern Sri Lanka where it was best seen (in its annular form, with ‘ring of fire’ effect), or from elsewhere on the island as a partial eclipse.

It seemed as if the Colombo-based media were completely preoccupied with the intense build-up to the presidential election scheduled for 26 January 2010 — a case of politics eclipsing the solar eclipse?

Jaffna school children view the solar eclipse - Photo courtesy Virakesari


But there were a couple of honourable exceptions – and thank heavens for that! One was the leading Tamil daily Virakesari, which sponsored an expedition to Jaffna, in northern Sri Lanka, by a group of professional and amateur astronomers from SkyLk.com. According to one member of this expedition, Thilina Heenatigala, this newspaper provided the widest and most uptodate coverage of the annular eclipse from Jaffna.

SkyLk.com collaborated with the Hindu College in Jaffna, whose playground was converted into an open air observation camp. Thilina says over 2,000 people – including school children and adults – had converged to witness the event. A large screen was set up on to which the live image from a telescope was projected.

Not far from there, a group of engineering students and teachers from the University of Moratuwa was doing a more scientific observation. Later that day, team leader Dr Rohan Munasinghe reported in an email: “We have recorded the solar eclipse from Kayts (lat 9d,37m N, Long 79d,58 E), the biggest island off Jaffna Sri Lanka. We have timestamped the video with GPS (Garmin 18) accuracy.”

University of Moratuwa team observing the clipse - photo courtesy Dr Rohan Munasinghe

The Sinhala Sunday newspaper Rivira was part of this university expedition. Its science editor Tharaka Gamage, himself an astronomy enthusiast, reported from the eclipse’s ground zero for his readers.

Elsewhere across the island of Sri Lanka, there was plenty of interest among the people from all walks of life — as seen from the thousands who stepped out during mid-day to take a peek at the celestial phenomenon. Not all of them followed the safety precautions to prevent eye damage, disseminating which the media had done a good job in the preceding days.

Clearly, this high level of public interest was not reflected in how the rest of Lankan mainstream media covered the eclipse. But if the mainstream media’s gaze was firmly fixed on the gathering election storm on the ground, the new media created opportunities for others to step into that void. Citizen scientists joined hands with citizen journalists to capture and share the eclipse with each other — and the world. These unpaid enthusiasts used commonly available digital tools and online platforms for this purpose.

Some of them uploaded dozens of photos for public viewing on image sharing sites like Flickr. A good example is what Shehal Joseph and Romayne Anthony did. There were many others.

SkyLk.com group was more ambitious: they actually webcast the eclipse live online from their public observation camp at Hindu College grounds. Stuck in Colombo with its sub-optimal viewing conditions for this eclipse, this was the best chance for people like myself to catch the annular part of the phenomenon.

“We were struggling with bandwidth limitations most of the time,” Thilina Heenatigala says. “We used a Dialog HSPA modem to connect to the web, and line speeds kept fluctuating. We were not the only ones uploading still photos or video to the web from different locations in northern Sri Lanka — and apparently all of us were slowing down each other.”

Being the tech-savvy planner he is, Thilina had alerted Dialog telecom company about the likely peaking of bandwidth demand. But he is not sure if any temporary enhancing was done, even though Dialog currently claims to be the ‘first and best’ to offer telecom coverage in the north. Certainly, the live eclipse webcast was not of uniform quality — it’s a small miracle it happened at all: until a few months ago, this was part of the theatre of war in northern Sri Lanka.

In fact, SkyLk.com had used the web to build up public awareness and interest using video trailers on YouTube. Here is one of several simulations they had up from December, thus one for Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka (simulation):



In the end, however, SkyLk.com became a victim of its own success. The live webcast was followed by hundreds, and then thousands of online visitors from different parts of the world. This apparently overshot the usual allocations provided by the offshore hosting company (in the US), which suspended the account. Right now SkyLk.com website is not accessible (as at 16 January 2010, 15:00 UTC/GMT).

Within hours of the eclipse, several individuals and groups also uploaded highlights of their eclipse videos on to the YouTube. Here are the most striking ones I came across in a quick search:

Solar Eclipse 2010 Sri Lanka Scientific Record – by University of Moratuwa
Scientific recording of the annular solar eclipse on 15 January 2010 was carried out from the Island Kayts (Lat +09d 37m North and Long +79d 58m East) of Sri Lanka.

Orion Video’s coverage from Nallur, Jaffna:

Not in the same league as the above two videos, this was Nishan Perera’s personal observations from Ratnapura, south-western Sri Lanka:

It’s too early to draw firm conclusions from this random evidence, but in all likelihood, we passed thresholds in both citizen journalism and citizen science with this eclipse. Clearly, the mainstream media’s monopoly/domination over reporting of such an event has been shattered: their indifference will no longer stand in the way of information and images being disseminated.

Perhaps just as important, it is no longer possible for a couple of self-appointed ‘public astronomers’ to dominate the public information channels on an occasion like this, mostly for shameless self-promotion. As Dr Kavan Ratnatunga, President of the Sri Lanka Astronomical Association, noted in an article: “I am amazed as to how many who have never even seen a Solar Eclipse, will gladly talk about it to an equally ignorant journalist, resulting in some totally misleading and sometimes hilarious information being published in both the English and Sinhala media. In a nation which believes in pseudo astrology, I am sure it is just a matter of time before quacks start using it to predict influence on local events and politics. However, there is absolutely no influence on any person by any of these celestial events.”

At the end of the day, however, astronomy aficionados are emphatic that no amount of media coverage can really substitute the experience of being there and experiencing it ourselves. As Kavan says: “A solar Eclipse is event which must be experience and observed. No video can do justice to that experience. It can also become addictive. In the modern age when the Internet and TV can bring events to your home, one may wonder why some Eclipse chasers travel round the world to see an Eclipse of the Sun.”

The next solar eclipse visible from Sri Lanka will be on 26 December 2019. I wonder what kind of media and ICT landscape would cover that event…