“I make videos, that’s my tool, I believe this is one of the significant ways to raise the voice of the voiceless,” the man behind a remarkable work on recording, editing and publishing the stories of the victims of suppressed society across Asia, has started narrating.
Amila Sampath, a young journalist hailed from the southern part of Sri Lanka involved with the few media outlets in Colombo just before he turned his life towards the protecting of human rights in Sri Lanka. During the discussion I had with him he elaborated the efforts he made and friends who truly stood with him to encourage, and improve the content as well as the audience of the viewers.
Just Asia – the said program is based on YouTube covering the brutality of the state and non-state parties actors across Asia. This program was otherwise largely ignored by mainstream media in the region
“The program started in mid-October 2013 as a part of my internship with the Asian Human Rights Commission ( AHRC). AHRC is a rights monitoring, documenting and analysing body headquartered in Hong Kong,” Amila said.
Before he joined the Hong Kong-based human rights body, he worked with the local rights promotion and protection group, Janasansadaya, where he was taught the basic outline of this universal subject, by a known human rights defender in Sri Lanka, Chithralal Perera.
“I think Chrithralal is the person who should be credited for what I’m today. Therefore we together produced over three hundred videos on the victims. Today that video collection is the largest collection of victims’ story in the Island. It has over eight hundred thousand viewers.
Chithralal Perera is a journalist who worked with the Sri Lankan version of Pravda. Subsequently, after the closing down of the paper decades ago, he joined various social movements before forming one on his own. Today, the group he has formed is a well-known organization for helping the victims of human rights violence.
Three years ago Amila was invited for the internship program of the AHRC. While commenting about his first experience in Hong Kong he said,
“Basil Fernando, director of the AHRC invited me for the internship. Therefore I landed here. After that I spent every moment to think about what better I could with this wider training to improve on what I did in Sri Lanka. It led to the birth of the video program. I sincerely appreciate the greater help by Basil, Bijo, Baseer and all other colleagues in the AHRC who hold up the program and continue their support. This, is not a single person’s work; I would like to say this is the result of strong teamwork. Some of those colleagues are no longer with us but their contribution to the program is invaluable”.
First named as the Human Rights Asia Weekly Roundup then as Just Asia, the program completed three years of publishing by producing 145 episode on the situation in Asia on last October 14. All of them are available here.
“The main challenge is compiling story each week and producing the program on time. So far we have been succeeding though we are facing tremendous difficulties due to the limitation of resources. We have a non-permanent arrangement for the studio and most of our anchors are volunteers. The part-time editor who is working from India is giving her full efforts to produce the program efficiently. Well… after all, I would say there is a long road ahead”, Amila said.
There is no doubt this is a significant platform through which the human rights defenders, policymakers, victims have come forward to tell their version of the story. Especially facilitating an uncensored opportunity for victims is the most important and rare factor here.
While talking the future plan with the program, Amila said,
“There are hundreds of television channels across Asia, who may be interested in syndicating with our program free of cost. So I would like to make an open request to anyone who would like to have our program in their country. Through that, I believe more people in general especially those who lack of access to the Internet, can be involved with us.”
No society will move forward unless and until the citizens start truly respecting each other and restricting themselves to the principles of the norms and ethics on which moral power can be grown. Words without proper actions are nothing but vicious attempts to eliminate the opportunity for social change. Listening to those victims in the program documented tells the story of agony and needs of immediate action to protect humanity.
An effort by this single man along with his few colleagues is proving the necessity for social change and support by the people in general, as well as energy and creativity of our generation.
As intellectual super star Noam Chomsky once enlighten us, “We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.” So here is an idea and the people who work for that noble idea. They deserve genuine and true support.
Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at email@example.com