Ravindu Lakshitha, an Assistant News Producer, participated in Internews’ elections reporting training in Colombo, Sri Lanka and received a grant to produce a story. It was his first training in the area of elections reporting in his 2.5 years of journalism training and practicing.
Lakshitha’s story – Voting Rights for the Visually Impaired – was also his first feature broadcast on elections. The story was aired during prime time on one of the most widely viewed networks in Sri Lanka, ITN (Independent Television Network Limited).
The story discusses the barriers that blind people in Sri Lanka face when participating in voting and democratic proceedings in Sri Lanka. Lakshitha says the elections reporting training “gave me the concept to work on and showed me the path to take.” He was able to find visually impaired interviewees through a friend who is blind.
View the story here (in Sinhala) – Lakshitha’s story starts at 23:17:
Currently, blind voters in Sri Lanka may bring an assisting person with them to the polling station, as well as a letter issued by a public official and certified by a Government Medical Officer. The assisting person of the voter can mark the vote at the cubicle in front of the Senior Presiding Officer and another member of the poll staff. When a visually impaired voter is not accompanied with an assisting person, the Senior Presiding Officer will go to the cubicle with the voter along with another officer.
“I would not have been able to surface a story like this if not for the training. The training gave us a lot of ideas. Otherwise I would have done the same old routine reporting, I would have done what I was told to do [by the newsroom].”
Lakshitha developed a passion for the topic, and he says that he would have pursued the story even without the grant, although the funds did allow him to hire professional production equipment.
His story was well-received. “I received so much appreciation within ITN itself. The Deputy General Manager called me up and praised me. This was my very first line-up. I was thrilled that I got responses like this for my very first one. It meant a lot for me.”
Lakshitha was asked to produce another elections story. His second story was about university research on a touch and voice-based system which enables the visually impaired to vote independently, and privately.
The story was published on YouTube (in Sinhala):
Internews’ project in Sri Lanka is funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL).