Viranjana Herath, Convener of the Free Media Movement addressing the participants
The Community Development Services (CDS) together with Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation in Sri Lanka and OMG Public Relations of the Omnicom Media Group Sri Lanka and supported by the Embassy of Switzerland in Sri Lanka, conducted a sensitization programme for journalists and writers on Development Journalism and how it can be applied in reporting social issues such as labour migration.
Presenting at the workshop, Andrew Samuel of CDS pointed out the need for journalists to be activists and advocates in their reporting that will lead to the accountability and responsibility of the respective stakeholders and duty bearers. In an era when disinformation and fake news are prominent, it is crucial to reinforce development journalism with a view to influence and advocate for the change that the society needs -- Sri Lanka at this very moment in history requires such activism from scribes. Writers of this caliber bring evidence into their stories, which are results of ethical and unbiased investigation. They are also accountable for what they pen down. Most importantly, these journalists will see the bigger picture and see humanity when writing about social, economic and political issues.
Despite being a prominent contributor to the economy of Sri Lanka, Labour migration is a topic that has not received sufficient attention through the quality of reporting in mainstream media. Foreign remittances play a large role in Sri Lanka’s economy. In 2017, remittances recorded were USD 7.1 billion, which accounted for over 8% of the GDP according to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Remittances were also the highest foreign exchange earner ahead of apparel exports and tourism earnings in the same year. At a micro level, 1 in every 14 households receive foreign remittances, thus having a significant input to the country.
Andrew Samuel from CDS speaking at the workshop
Within its five stages; pre-migration, pre-departure, in-service, return and reintegration and remigration, labour migration involves multiple stakeholders, institutions, laws, regulations, and duty bearers. Politically, it has implications on rights protection, diplomacy, regional and global commitments, and conventions. Its economic association is seen and not limited to remittances, skills enhancement, brain-gain and economic reintegration. The larger and more humane effect takes place socially under migrant rights, families left behind, health, gender issues and social equity. A plethora of issues can be discussed in relation to labour migration, some which are less spoken of, such as policies, acts and conventions, migrant rights, skills development, trafficking of persons, forced labour and modern slavery, migration status, reintegration, migrant health, voting rights and governance in migration.
Those present were directed to sources of information pertaining to labour migration collaborated by Helvetas and the ILO. An invitation was extended to journalists to mark this as a turning point in actively engaging with social, political and economic issues and reinforcing media ethics in being advocates and activists who would genuinely speak for the people.