From trainee to trainer: The man who brought Mojo to Sri Lanka

KC Saranga has trained more than 1,000 journalists, students and people in marginalised communities in Sri Lanka on how to tell stories using their mobile phones. At the country’s first mobile journalism festival, he thanks Thomson Foundation for training him and speaks to our training and communications editor Catherine Mackie.

KC Saranga is rarely without a mobile phone in his hand. There’s a constant ping or ring of calls and texts to the now general manager of news and current affairs at Sri Lanka’s TV Derana.

But the man who brought mobile journalism to the country no longer gets to do the one thing that he would really love to do with the mobile phone in his hand, which is to film news stories.

“It’s a big gap in my life and I’m really sad that I don’t have the time to do it anymore,” he says.

It’s an extraordinary turnaround for the man who in 2019 was on a five-week training course with Thomson Foundation to learn mobile journalism (mojo) skills.

We’re meeting in the lobby of a hotel where we are both appearing as speakers at MojoLanka, Sri Lanka’s first mobile journalism festival. Speaking in his native Sinhala through an interpreter, his enthusiasm needs no translation. He particularly loves the fact that journalists can now ‘do everything from one device’.

It’s taken years of hard work to get to the stage where, he says, news output has been transformed through ‘broadcast quality videos’ delivered by a network of mojo-trained reporters countrywide.

“Today we are able to connect live with people around the country,” he tells the audience at MojoLanka, showing them examples of journalists using smartphones to deliver the news.

MoJo Competition

KC started off his career as an assistant TV producer and first heard about mobile journalism whilst studying for a master’s degree in journalism.

“There wasn’t much information on the internet, he says. But I found out about a mobile competition that was done by the Thomson Foundation.”

He tried his luck in the competition in both 2016 and 2017 but failed to make an impression. His persistence and practise paid off. He re-entered in 2019. This time his film about Sri Lanka’s human-elephant conflict was highly praised and he placed in the top six out of 154 entries from 55 countries.   


The community has been empowered

KC Saranga, TF alumnus & Ada Derana MoJo Force
Sri Lanka's Mobile Journalists

KC went on to create Ada Derana Mojo Force in Sri Lanka. “We showed journalists how to provide reliable information to the public using their mobile phones. We even provided the phones for them.

Eventually it became a success. Two hundred provincial journalists were transformed into mobile journalists.” In the 2019 presidential election, they had a Mojo reporter at every polling station.

KC’s an engaging presence on stage at MojoLanka; pacing the floor, talking directly to the audience without notes. He urges them to maintain high standards in storytelling, production and ethics.

“The community has been empowered,” he tells them. What he modestly fails to say is that it’s largely thanks to him.

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