An eye-opening workshop for Sri Lankan info-activists

On the 12th January, around 30 independent media advocates travelled from all over Sri Lanka to gather at a cooperative training centre, situated along the Mahaweli River, in the central hill region of Kandy. They arrived to attend a three day workshop entitled “Interactive Media Technologies”. The workshop sought to identify new ideas, approaches and tools that could be used to establish the first editorially independent community radio station in Sri Lanka. As part of this event, Tactical Tech's project,‘10 tactics for turning information into action,’ was presented to the participants.

Sunil Wijesinha, a prominent community radio broadcaster and Director of the tel communication collective,, organised the event. “We have all been using information in our activism for some time,” said Sunil before the screening, "so it will be interesting to see how 10 tactics can help us think about how to now turn that information into action.”

After the event, Manohari Sanjeewika, a freelance video journalist, explained that 10 tactics had particularly generated new ideas among the audience on the use of information tools and tactics to deal with rights violations. Manohari said: “Human rights violations are so prevalent in Sri Lanka and sometimes the tools that we have don't serve the purpose to address this. 10 tactics has given us so many refreshing ideas.”

Some of the participants raised issues of cultural sensitivity and the Pink Chaddi Campaign from India featured prominently in this discussion. Mervin Senanayaka, Head of Media Studies at the Aquinas Private University, pointed out that all of the tactics and tools presented may not be appropriate in Sri Lanka and he stressed that local knowledge will always play an important role when selecting the right tools and tactics. “We need to have an in-depth discussion to develop our own tools and strategies but those presented in the film were certainly an eye-opener,” said Senayanaka.

Premalal Wijesinha from the state run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation said that “we need to try out some of these tactics and find out the effectiveness for ourselves.” Inspired by the film, he discussed a number of possibilities of using digital stories in combination with other media formats to influence social change.

There was unanimous agreement among the participants that the video now needs to be subtitled in the Sinhala and Tamil languages and screenings need to be held with info-activists and grassroots communities.

The tel communication collective also made a commitment to explore how they can generate further action and discussion around 10 tactics and info-activism.

Story and photos by MJR David.