From Weddings to Journalism – Using Drones to Report on Critical Issues in Sri Lanka

One man holds a drone, another man operates the controls and two others look on.
Internews held a workshop in Sri Lanka to inform journalists about the regulations governing the flying of such craft, the ethics involved and the safety and security checks that need to be followed. (credit: Internews)

Kaushalye, a reporter for the Sinhala language newspaper Lankadeepa in Sri Lanka, had planned to purchase a drone to photograph weddings and other events. He had never heard about using drones for journalism until he attended a workshop in Mount Lavinia. Kaushalye’s interest was kindled – he said he found the rules and regulations and ethics components especially useful.

Some media outlets in Sri Lanka have already started using drones (also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs) to provide aerial footage for their stories but there was no awareness or training for journalists about the regulations governing the flying of such craft, the ethics involved and the safety and security checks that need to be followed.

To address this, Internews in Sri Lanka invited Sanjana Hattotuwa to design and deliver a half day hands-on training on the use of drones for journalism.

Sanjana is the Founding Editor of Groundviews, a citizen journalism website based in Sri Lanka, and a Founding Board Member of UAViators, the world’s first network of UAV operators and others interested in peaceful, humanitarian applications of UAVs. He has lectured internationally on the use of UAVs in humanitarian and peacekeeping domains.

As a result of the training, the participating journalists came up with ideas on how to use drones to augment their reporting.

Rahul, who works for BBC Sinhala, Ada newspaper and Rivira newspaper, wants to use a drone in Hambantota to cover the human-elephant conflict and show how development in the area has encroached on the habitat of the elephants.

Fais, who works for Engal Thesam, a regional Tamil language newspaper, is interested in using a drone to report on how sea erosion has increased after the construction of the Oluvil harbor in Eastern Province.

The workshop was conducted as part of Internews’ One Sri Lanka Journalism Fellowship program that supports the production of quality content that effectively opens space for discussion and reflects the diversity of the community. It is funded by the US Embassy in Sri Lanka.

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