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Citizen Media in Times of Crisis

Sanjana Hattotuwa (ICT4Peace): Citizen Journalism and humanitarian aid: Bane or boon? The deep-rooted power of politicians in rigid social structures, casteism, a clientelist political architecture, rampant nepotism and corruption, among others, temper the progressive social transformation promised by the New Media and Citizen Journalism in particular. Scalability is another problem – projects that show great potential when funded often join a graveyard of well-intentioned initiatives when the funding dries up. Countries such as Sri Lanka are still bedevilled by the lack of standards based swabhasha data input frameworks that in turn strangle the awareness and growth of new media content, such as blogs, in Sinhala and Tamil. As a result, contrary to its moniker, citizen journalism today shows an urban bias, is mediated in English and, inescapably, elite. This will need to change and soon.

2 Comments on “Citizen Media in Times of Crisis”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jul 30th, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    I had to look up the word “swabhasha.” But I would have thought you would have quoted the subsequent paragraph:

    There are other significant challenges, not unique to citizen journalism and new media, but certainly augmented by the very nature of the media that they rest on. In a conversation with the author, Dan Gillmor, Director of the Centre for Citizen Media based in the US and widely regarding as a leading expert in Citizen Journalism averred, “… we must also be careful that citizen media that is irresponsible, unprofessional, partial and inaccurate – does not hinder the growth of free voices on the web.” The early experience with citizen journalism in Sri Lanka clearly brings out the tendency for slander, bitter personal invective and polemics that are strengthened in part because of the conventions of anonymity that citizen journalism as it exists today rests on.

    Similar experience here, no?

  2. #2 Sanjana Hattotuwa
    on Aug 2nd, 2007 at 7:57 pm


    As demonstrated by the Kathy Sierra incident earlier this year, the knee-jerk reaction by noted bloggers in the US to enforce civility and the backlash it generated, anonymity on blogs is sometimes necessary, often not and always hotly contested by those who use real identity markers.

    I’ve written more about this here:

    A couple of mediators, negotiators, academics, social activists and lawyers who met at an Online Dispute Resolution Conference in Manchester, England earlier this year came up with a statement that is worth noting here. See

    Whether this in any significant way addresses the phenomenon that I point to in my article and you rightfully state is not limited to Sri Lanka remains to be seen. I suppose we have to keep chipping away at the issue?

    Best regards,

    Sanjana Hattotuwa