Text in time of war

Information is at a premium in Sri Lanka, especially authentic news, fast and quick.

With the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (ltte) waging full-blown battles in the country's north and the rest of the country beset with fear of unprovoked attacks, Sri Lankans are turning increasingly to non-traditional news and information outlets. One of the first with the news of a Sri Lankan air raid on the hideout of ltte leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was jnw, a text message-based news alert service launched two years ago. "Air Force spokesman says jets bomb ltte hideout in Kalmadukulam, Iranamadu around 11.15am, adding intelligence believes Prabhakaran was present,' subscribers got to read on their mobile phones on January 23.

jnw's editor, Chamath Ariyadasa, said, "The idea of getting across news has caught on reasonably well and now a lot of people feel that it is easy, hassle-free, and timely.' The sms service is available on two mobile networks in Sri Lanka, and recently, it commenced news dissemination on two others on a trial basis. "The challenge is to encapsulate a breaking story in 160 characters,' said Ariyadasa.

"We have to be extra cautious on sourcing, he said about the network's news-gathering ethics,' he added. According to the jnw website, every story is verified by three sources and sourced when transmitted.

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