300+ Sri Lankan journalists trained on Facebook fundamentals

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By Yu Yu Din (Strategic Partner Manager, News Partnership)

In 2020, the Meta Journalism Project partnered with the Centre for Investigative Reporting to provide free training to Sri Lankan journalist-trainers. These trainers learned foundational Facebook skills and were equipped to train other journalists across Sri Lanka in Sinhala and Tamil.

By mid 2021, the CIR Facebook Foundations training had been completed by over 300 regional journalists in Sri Lanka, ranging from long-established reporters to fresh journalism graduates.

Participants received training on the basic tools available to journalists on Facebook, including how to use Facebook Live to file video stories. The course also offers modules on online safety, Page administration, and other best practices for showcasing their reporting on the platform.

Since graduating, this cohort of talented Sri Lankan journalists have published video stories watched by tens of thousands of readers; investigative reports that have alerted communities to negative environmental impacts; and some journalists are now inspired to establish their own media businesses.

L-R Prasad Purnimal, Ibunu Anas Abbas and Nadeeshan Meedin / Meta
Prasad Purnimal is starting his own media business

Prasad was one of the Program’s most experienced journalists, with nearly two decades as a provincial journalist based in North Western Sri Lanka.

Not long after graduating from the CIR Facebook Foundations program, Prasad launched his own Page, වැලි ජාවාරම් වලට එරෙහි අපි, and published investigative environmental stories. His story about the environmental damage caused by illegal sand mining has driven change in his community.

“After graduating from the training, I broadcast live on Facebook from a protest against illicit sand mining in the area. I also created a Facebook page dedicated to a group campaigning against illegal sand mining,” said Prasad.

This dedicated Page and Group is where community activists come together to fight this issue. He said, “Facebook is the best medium for us to communicate. I understand this since completing the training.”

“People say about 60% of sand mining has stopped after my reporting,” said Prasad. “Activists filed a fundamental rights violation case before the Supreme Court. The case is underway and the government stopped illicit sand mining temporarily.”

“I wanted to cover the true story as a journalist. I used Facebook to promote these stories,” said Prasad.

Prasad is now dreaming of taking the next step and launching his own media business.

Ibunu Anas Abbas now delivers news to 165,000+ Tamils around the world

This talented young journalist is bringing the global Tamil community together and sharing relevant News stories via Facebook. He established a Page for Tamils around the world and it has grown to a community of over 165,000+ followers.

“I am proud as a Sri Lankan to deliver a message which promotes unity and peace to more than 160,000 followers,” said Anas, “This video message of inclusion gained 3,700+ Positive Reactions, 2,700+ Engagement, 90+ Positive Comments and 800+ Shares.

”After graduating from the CIR Facebook Foundations program, Anas worked to make his Page more secure, “I placed more attention on protecting my privacy by setting up two factor authentication (2FA) and I added an alternate email to secure the Facebook Page.”

“I have worked on media related activities on Facebook for the past eight to 10 years. From this training, I had the opportunity to learn more about Pages, user engagement, and privacy issues,” said Anas. “These are important.”

Nadeeshan Meedin captures Sri Lanka’s sports heros

Colombo based sports journalist TM Nadeeshan has been sharing his passion for Sri Lankan Athletics since he started his Ceylon Athletics Page in 2017. Today, he runs this Page with a group of other young sports journalists. At the beginning of 2021, with the Olympics around the corner, Nadeeshan was preparing for a big year of reporting.

The CIR Facebook Foundations program taught his team to better engage athletics fans through different story formats using Facebook tools. “We have limited resources, so we increased our use of Facebook Live streams in competition environments,” said TM Nadeeshan, Co-Founder of Ceylon Athletics.

Sri Lankan athletics fans are loving the Page’s Facebook Live video stories, these video stories span competition footage through to the personal stories of Sri Lankan athletes and industry personalities. This competition video, Sri Lanka Creates History in 4X400m, attracted over 1.5M views.

The team also began sharing video stories in Facebook Groups, “We used community groups very efficiently to drive awareness. We have chosen subjective community groups and created conversations to enhance performance,” noted TM Nadeeshan.

Ceylon Athletics’ videos have become so well known, they are being reported in traditional media outlets. “Some Ceylon Athletics videos have created national headlines because we are the only professional journalism team promoting the sport of Athletics in Sri Lanka,” said TM Nadeeshan.

“As a young group of journalists we thank the Facebook Asia-Pacific team for involving us in this project. It tuned-up our knowledge plus it enhanced our productivity and confidence.” TM Nadeeshan.

Daminda Harsha (L) and Waruna Liyanage (R) / Meta
Waruna Liyanage is enabling junior journalists with tools for news gathering and sharing

Waruna Liyanage, a senior journalist at Sinhala Adaderana and the Manager of News at Derana FM Radio, completed the CIR Facebook Foundations training. He then functioned as a trainer, instructing and teaching junior staff members on the tools and best practices for news gathering and sharing.

In his role as trainer, he has engaged with Adaderana’s social media team and shares his learning from the training sessions with them. He uses his skills from the program to teach his staff Facebook best practices, community standards, and how to avoid violating these important regulations.

“I have guided staff and colleagues to promote their Facebook stories without using clickbait and other inappropriate methods,” shares Waruna. “I have also made them aware about hate speech, misinformation, disinformation, and more.”

Waruna has recently published a book about investigative journalism.

Daminda Harsha is live streaming major news events

Daminda Harsha is the Pictures Editor of Daily FT – Sri Lanka’s only business daily – published by Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. A former President of Photojournalists Association of Sri Lanka, he is an industry leader committed to building the capacity and skills of fellow photojournalists.

Harsha is using the knowledge gained from the CIR Facebook Foundations training program to train his fellow photojournalists, “We learnt how to use Facebook as a platform to share our professional work; we also learnt how to secure our Facebook accounts and use our Facebook accounts safely,” he shares.

His focus has been on filing video stories, “I am encouraging my colleagues to specialize in video content on Facebook. We have been doing a lot of livestreaming on Facebook through our Daily FT Page, and we’ve seen a growth in our audience,” says Harsha.

“Recently we livestreamed Sri Lanka’s post-budget forum and the Cyber Security Summit through our page. We have found that reach through Facebook is much higher than other platforms for our channels.”

Lasantha de Silva (L) and Sandun Arosha (R) / Meta
Trainer Spotlight: Sandun Arosha

Sandun Arosha is the Editor in Chief of Citizen News Network, and served as a trainer for the CIR Facebook Foundations program, training graduates in early 2021.According to Sandun, teaching journalists to enhance their security on Facebook was the most valuable contribution of the CIR Facebook Foundations program.

Not only has Sandun trained journalists on basic Facebook tools, including how to use Facebook Live to file video stories, he’s been applying those best practices on his own Page.

Referring to a video story posted in May 2021, he said “This video got 586,300 views. It happened because we used a new Post testing tool in Creator Studio.

”This story is also a great example of a lesson from the program, which also covers Facebook’s Community Standards. He noted the importance of meeting the platform’s Community Standards and said he taught participants to, “Post only original content or secure permission before publishing someone’s footage, and give credit to the owner.

”The other lesson Sandun’s team is implementing is to avoid hate speech and sensitive visuals. The team has utilised these skills, and others learnt during CIR Facebook Foundations program, to increase their followers and viewers.

Trainer Spotlight: Lasantha de Silva

Secretary of the Free Media Movement of Sri Lanka, Lasantha de Silva, is a prominent regional journalist based in the Uva Province and a national-level free media activist. He is responsible for the official Facebook Page of Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement.

Lasantha served as a trainer for the CIR Facebook Foundations program, training graduates in early 2021.Not only a trainer, Lasantha manages his own Facebook Page, with the purpose of creating a voice for alternative opinions. Forever learning, he used his updated skills to convert the eJournalistsLKA Page to a news page. Since then, a community has been built around this News page.

“I realized Facebook plays a great role as a news source. In my institutional work, I use Facebook as a platform to address various audiences beyond traditional media,” he said

“We investigate corruption and misappropriation of public property. This story is based on Right to Information (RTI). I managed to prove information the authorities provided on a water supply project in a rural area was false. The RTI story was different from the real story. We published an article, radio, TV and also cross-posted on the eJournalistsLKA Page.” Lasantha said, ”I am happy that there is an impact from the Facebook story. It seems that water officials saw the story through Facebook. They are reviewing the status of the site.

”He continued, “Facebook search has been a very useful tool for me as a journalist. The training also helped me learn how to use verifications and the importance of complying with community standards. I now try my best to protect community standards and prevent whatsoever hate speech.

“As a young group of journalists we thank the Facebook Asia-Pacific team for involving us in this project. It tuned-up our knowledge plus it enhanced our productivity and confidence.”

TM Nadeeshan (Co-Founder of Ceylon Athletics)

*All results self reported by the partners. These results are self-reported and not identically repeatable. Generally expected individual results will differ.