Communication 4 Transformation

‘Freedom of Expression of Youth in Cyber Space should not be restricted’ – Dr. Harsha De Silva at iVoice launching

Colombo, 18th July 2017:  Freedom of Expression is a fundamental entitlement of youth as the other segments. It is the responsibility of the State to ensure that they can entertain it without any interference says Dr.Harsha De Silva, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs.

He addressed a group of young social media activists as the Chief Guest while attending the launch of the tri-lingual community media platform called iVoice.lk. Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF) with the support of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) officially launched iVoice.lk, at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute yesterday (18).

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iVoice is a digitally driven, evidence based community media platform developed to address issues affecting women, youth, elders and other communities often excluded in mainstream media. iVoice offers a great opportunity for youth to engage using videos, texts, podcasting, pictures to tell their stories. Simultaneously, it encourages youth not only to address community issues but also to propose creative ideas to find solutions for such issues by offering seed funding as well.

Speaking at the event, the Chief Guest, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Hon. Harsha De Silva further noted, “Social media offers a great space for youth to make critical opinions. Instead of resisting their free speech, a culture should be established where youth fearlessly make constructive opinions through social media and keep their authorities accountable. The government should ensure that cyber space is not restricted for youth.”

Chairperson of SDJF, Prof. Wanigasundera spoke on the role of iVoice in community development, saying, “Being a digitally driven alternative community media tool, iVoice is a unique platform that has enormous potential for young people to express themselves creatively, tell their stories, and address issues, impacting them, as well as their communities in an inclusive manner that fosters locally-driven solutions.”

The partnership between SDJF-UNPFA aims to facilitate increased engagement with youth and communities of Sri Lanka to increase the use of development journalism and youth participation in addressing social issues and finding innovative solutions.

Recognizing the importance of this partnership, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka, Ritsu Nacken, said, “When youth are empowered and given the right opportunities, they become effective drivers of change. This is why UNFPA partners with young people, helping them to participate in decision-making and creating a space for them to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

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At the event, an interactive tri-lingual discussion also took place titled, ‘How can social media helps us build a better Sri Lanka?’ The discussion featured three prominent social media influencers from the English, Sinhala and Tamil social media spheres: Mr. Himal Kotalawela, Ms. Nadie Wasalamudaliarachchi, and Mr. Gopiharan Perinpam. The panelists shared their personal stories and insights on the strategic use of social media in mobilizing synergy of youth for the community.

Nadie Wasalamudaliarachchi (@Nadiewma) a journalist (Television Presenter), author, and a poet. A well-known social media activist shared her experience of using Facebook during disaster situations in order to coordinate relief, mobilize support base, create awareness, and to inform people. Nadie noted that “when I posted about the need of lunch packets during the flooding, we received more than what we needed from people absolutely unknown to us. Social media should not always be considered as harming our societies”.

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Gopiharan Perimpem (@gopiharan) an Assistant Superintend of Customs, a Digital Media Specialist and young social media activist made noted that social media can be creatively used to address community issues and to mobilize people around possible solution.  He added “It is a false assumption that government social media campaigns are always politically threatening. When we launched Facebook campaign, in Jaffna on water pollution, we had thousands of people gathered to join us. Several other youth groups from other areas affected by same issues eventually joined the campaign. We had thousands of people who have never seen each other and follow different faiths march non-violently for more than three kilometers. Even H.E. The President responded to us.”

Himal Kothalawala(@Himalkk) – young journalist and active social media person noted, even making an opinion without action in social media can create better knowledge amongst people on issues affecting them. Youth have absolute freedom to use their free speech in social media. But, hate speech should not be encouraged.”

He has been very active in social media particularly Facebook and twitter in addressing various community issues. He has more than five thousand followers on twitter. Gopi has been very strategic in using social media to create a positive social change.

Over 100 youth from Colombo, Jaffna, Galle, Kalmunai, and other districts around the island, actively participated in the event.

For further details please contact the Communication team of SDJF at info@ldjf.org

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