Groundviews was the local partner for the Global Voices Summit 2017, that saw journalists, bloggers, media experts, researchers and artists from over 60 countries meet in Colombo to discuss global and regional media issues as well as brainstorm for future collaborations and endeavours.
With the support of the Canadian High Commission in Colombo, Groundviews and CPA were able to host five activists and journalists from the Maldives to participate in the Global Voices Summit. They represented several civil society and media organisations, and were able to share first-hand realities of the closing space for democracy in the Maldives, as it nears an election in 2018.
Increased awareness amongst the Global Voices community of the issues facing journalists and the media in the Maldives, through networking and sharing sessions during the Summit.
Networks established in Sri Lanka with media and civil society for these journalists/activists to access when restricted within their home country.
Activities of the Global Voices Summit
The Summit featured several panels, roundtables, discussions and workshops on wide-ranging topics with regard to digital journalism and activism. There were small group discussions that focused on regional topics, opening up the floor to more speakers, and there were also panels that featured executives from globally renowned digital initiatives.
Knowledge-sharing and networking were the main takeaways from the Summit, as the 300+ crowd in attendance comprised of activists, educators, media experts, researchers and artists from over 60 countries.
Engagement and contribution of Maldivian participants
The five participants were engaged in sessions throughout both days of the Summit. They contributed as speakers and to the discussion of two sessions in particular, seeing as how the topics discussed were pertinent to the prevalent media landscape in the Maldives. The titles of these were The Rise of Online Religious Nationalism in South Asia and Threatened Journalists in South Asia & Their Rights.
Through the networking sessions with global media voices at the Summit and the meeting with diplomatic representatives at Canada House, the participants have established links with allies who will be able to take their activism and messages forward. Groundviews has arranged to publish content, in a manner that protects anonymity of the Maldivian sources, when necessary and should the need arise.
The engagement with the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka, at Canada House, helped in a greater understanding of ground realities in the Maldives. In light of subsequent measures by the Maldivian government to clamp down on meeting with senior diplomats, condemned by the US and UK Ambassadors, it was vital that this face to face connection was established. Future situation reports and updates from the ground from the five participants in particular, and the larger Maldivian activist networks in general, will have to be over electronic means – and the discussion around growing network surveillance was also topical and timely in this regard.
The Maldives had one of the biggest delegations at the Global Voices Summit. The Canadian High Commission funding allowed five leading voices to shape the conversations, and also allowed a leading figure like Ethen Zuckerman to participate at the meeting with the Maldivians at Canada House, raising the profile of their situation amongst a group of global journalists.
Additionally, the five participants also met with the Foreign Correspondents Association of Sri Lanka, in what was a well-attended meeting of all the major wire news services covering the South Asian region.
The impact of this exposure cannot be under estimated.