On Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, a series of explosions went off at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, claiming the lives of 259 people and leaving nearly 500 injured. Shock and fear spread across the country, as people struggled to comprehend the scale of the damage caused. Who did this? What were their motives? The citizens of Sri Lanka were looking for answers. But sadly, there were none to be found. An information vacuum had been created, and misinformation was everywhere.
In those dark times filled with grief and disquiet, finding hope was difficult. Shops remained closed, and devastated communities were struggling to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones. Misinformation and #FakeNews led to riots breaking out around the island, and curfews were imposed to help ensure law and order.
As we watched from the sidelines in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, we were disappointed by the lack of credible information which could have helped soothe the already weeping hearts of all Sri Lankans, at least to some extent.
We decided to step in, and do what we can to help people truly understand what was going on.
Our first task was to piece together the different pieces of information floating around, and establish a clear, and authentic timeline. This was no easy task, considering how the government had decided to block Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, and there was no proper crisis management plan in place.
We owe a large debt of gratitude to our entire team, who worked tirelessly day and night to establish a funnel of verified news sources. With the funnel in place, our publishing team created a mini-portal of sorts on our website, with the aim of collating all information relevant to the attacks in one place for anyone who needed it. We also made sure to keep Sri Lanka informed through our Twitter feed.
Once the curfew was lifted, various team members independently made their way across the country, looking for more insights.
Our writers visited Negombo and Kochchikade, both sites of deadly bomb blasts. We were mindful to cover diverse perspectives which sometimes went ignored. One such story was that of Thilina Appuhamy, who was struggling to come to terms with the loss of her child who fell victim to one of the bombs. We also didn’t forget to give space to the kind individuals who were trying to contribute in their own little way to make things better. One of them was artist Tahira Rifath, who decided to pay tribute to the victims of the attacks through her art.
As a responsible media outfit, we have a duty to keep people informed. In the days following the attacks, we enlightened people on the Emergency Regulations, which had been imposed in order to strengthen the country’s security. As investigations into the attacks uncovered a scary web of radicalisation and terrorism, we got in touch with international counter-terrorism experts to help our readers gain a better understanding of what could be done to prevent such attacks in the future.
The Desperate Search For Normalcy
But even as time plodded on and the heat died down, the effects of the attacks on our economy and our lives grew more lucid. Those who relied on meagre sales to feed their families suffered the loss of business most, and many people of all races and religions were left without a livelihood. Our photographers went around Colombo, documenting through their camera lenses how the economic slowdown was taking its toll on everyday Sri Lankans.
We were humbled and honoured to be part of a range of initiatives setup by various entities, with the innocent aim of helping Sri Lanka heal.Working with a skeleton crew, Roar Studios put together a video with notable people, urging everyone to stay united. We hoped to comfort our viewers and let them know they’re not alone.
The Roar team also took part in a few projects to help boost the country’s economy post-Easter Sunday attacks. One of them was Asanka de Mel’ and Wunderman Thompson’s Sri Lanka is Positive initiative, which was a large-scale movement aimed at getting the economy back on track. We were also part of the Love Sri Lanka initiative, which was put together by a group of hospitality industry professionals, who hoped to nurse the country’s tourism sector back to health following the attacks.
The people of Roar belong to various ethnicities and religions. Our homes are scattered across the island and we’ve all experienced life differently, yet our differences have never been an obstacle.
Throughout the crisis, we are proud of the fact that we worked together as one team to ensure our readers and viewers were kept informed. Sri Lanka is home to us all, and it is our wish that this country always remains the tranquil paradise it is.