Young Sri Lanka Journalist Wins an Award

Sri Lankan journalist Vasantha Mary, a One Sri Lanka Fellow, was recognized for producing the best Tamil feature article published in the month of July 2016. She was recognized by Lakehouse, one of Sri Lanka’s leading newspaper groups. Its monthly Ran Salakuna (Golden Mark) program recognizes the outstanding work of journalists working in the Sinhala, Tamil and English newspapers owned by the group. Vasantha works at Thinakaran newspaper and was previously employed at Virakesari, a leading Tamil daily.

Vasantha had submitted two stories – the first about the psychological impact of war on the lives of people in the North – a story she reported on during a field trip supported by Internews’ One Sri Lanka Journalism Fellowship program.

Her other story focused on the plight of family members of those who have left the country via boat to Australia, whose whereabouts are now unknown and how racketeers in the business exploit and mislead would be migrants. She originally worked on this story as a participant of Internews’ Journalist Sprint Project in February.

26-year-old Vasantha was born and raised in Nawalapitiya, a town in the Central Province.  An ethnic Tamil, Vasantha can speak Sinhala fluently.

After completing a degree in sociology at the Peradeniya University in Kandy, Vasantha moved to Colombo and decided to become a journalist to bring light to some of the issues facing Sri Lankans. In 2014 she got her first break when the Virakesari newspaper hired her as an apprentice to report on crime.

“I started working as a journalist two years ago,” she said. “I didn’t have any qualifications as a journalist but one day I heard about Internews’ free fellowship program for journalists. Earlier I had only conducted phone-based reporting but the fellowship gave me the opportunity to travel to the field. I didn’t have any friends in the media field earlier, now I have many friends in Colombo and other parts of the country.”

“By participating in the training programs organized by Internews, I learnt how to cover stories on social issues, and also learnt how to research a story,” Vasantha added. “The best story I’ve covered during the training is the story on the kidney racket in the upcountry areas.”

Vasantha was also a part of a five member Internews supported reporting team which twice visited an area in the south central region of the country where a devastating landslide occurred. The first visit in May was two days after the tragedy to report on the immediate requirements of the affected while the second visit a month later focused on the long term needs.

“It has been great working in small multi-ethnic teams. I’ve enjoyed and learnt a lot by collaborating with other journalists.”

Internews’ One Sri Lanka Journalism Fellowship Program (OSLJF) is a platform which has brought together Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim working journalists from across the country to conceptualize and produce stories that explore issues affecting ordinary Sri Lankans. This group of committed journalists work in multi-ethnic teams to promote the idea of a united Sri Lanka.