Navigating the challenges of investigative journalism in Jaffna

Posted by Deborah Kelly

The civil war in Sri Lanka may have ended in 2009 but journalists in the northern city of Jaffna still face danger in making sure difficult stories are told.

That was the message from Mr T Premananth editor of the newspaper, Uthayan when he discussed investigative reporting with journalists attending the Thomson Foundation convergence journalism workshop in Jaffna.

Mr T. Premananth needed hospital treatment after he was attacked by security forces in 2012 while covering a memorial ceremony to those who died in the war.

Other staff at one of the country’s largest independent Tamil daily newspapers have been attacked, its offices targeted.

The newspaper has been at the heart of reporting on alleged corruption and war atrocities in the region.

But, as Mr Premananth explained to journalists, there are still many stories the newspaper has been unable to print because of cultural concerns, civil pressures and fear with people too frightened to verify information uncovered by journalists.

Off limits to many journalists because of the brutal civil war which ravaged Sri Lanka for more than 30 years, the city of Jaffna is now home to a growing number of media organisations.

Print media remains highly influential in the Tamil community of the north but the opening up of the area after years of war and separation from the rest of the country and the international community is leading to a growth in other forms of media.

Among them the recently launched Tamil broadcasting service DDTV and is sister radio station DDFM. The television service is currently operating from four rooms in the shopping district but is building new studios on the edge of town with ambitions to broadcast to the entire island.

The Thomson Foundation has been able to hold training workshops for the first time in Jaffna.

Because of the growth in different media organisations, convergence journalism was the focus of the first of the investigative workshops.

Sixteen journalists took part as part of the ongoing Sri Lanka Inquirer Project.


The journalists have stories they want to tell and need telling.

Deborah Kelly, head of training and communications, Thomson Foundation


They were drawn from media organisations in Jaffna, other parts of northern region and the east of the country from media organisations centred in and around the port city of Batticaloa.

The four journalists from the eastern region were a determined and dedicated group, taking a gruelling 10-hour bus trip from their home city to reach Jaffna.

During the three-day course, the journalists were able to reflect on the challenges of investigative reporting but also the opportunities.

“The journalists have stories they want to tell and need telling,” said Thomson Foundation trainer Deborah Kelly. “The workshop was aimed at enabling them to navigate through the challenges of investigative reporting and enable them to publish their work on any platform.”

During the civil war Tamil Tigers unsuccessfully fought for a separate state. 

The Jaffna visit was part of the ongoing 2015-16 Sri Lanka Inquirer Project, backed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The project is hosting investigative journalism workshops in Kandi, Jaffna, Galle and Colombo for print, radio, TV and online reporters and will be followed by an all-island award for the best investigative stories.

Inquirer Awards

The Inquirer Awards are part of a programme to support South Asian journalists in exposing corruption.

Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

Director of Training and Communications

About: Deborah plays a key part in developing and promoting our training programmes and is our specialist  on gender in media. Her recent training projects have centred on digital and mobile journalism.

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