Sri Lanka

Inspiring Youth to Become Amplifiers of Freedom of Expression in Sri Lanka

Through creating “Incubator Spaces” as a space for free, creative and unrestricted thinking in three universities based in Colombo, Peradeniya and Jaffna districts in Sri Lanka, Helvetas is empowering future journalists and media professionals through training and multi-disciplinary learning to become amplifiers of ethical and socially responsible media expression in partnership with Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum.

  • Project Name
    InSPIRE – Incubator Space for Promoting Information Right and freedom of Expression
  • Project Phase
    2019 to 2023
  • Funding
    Funded by the European Union
  • Thematic focus
    Learning & Innovation
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

This project was completed in 2023.


Creating Space for Gender Sensitive and Socially Responsible Exercise of Freedom of Expression

In post war Sri Lanka, it has been observed that youth have been disengaged and unfamiliar with multiple dimensions of fundamental freedoms and have been vulnerable both economically and socially, and are relatively passive citizens in democratic processes and in times of national crises. Currently, the literacy rate of youth in Sri Lanka stands at 97%. Yet, the same youth lack in critical reasoning due to a variety of reasons such as: lack of multidisciplinary learning opportunities and gaps in existing courses and curriculums in schools and universities with minimal or no emphasis on online ethics, digital citizenship, right to information and fundamental freedoms.

This project funded by the European Commission implemented in partnership with Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF) contributes to the enhancement of democracy and human rights in Sri Lanka. It seeks to empower a community of aspiring future media professionals and journalists through the establishment of Incubator Spaces in three Universities in Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna; through developing specialized modules to build capacity of the same professionals in order to produce creative media products thereby utilizing them as an amplifier for the gender sensitive and socially responsible use of new media in Sri Lanka. For the creation of the new media products, students will first pitch their ideas in idea market organized in the incubator spaces and, from thereon, be guided by mentors to develop quality media products that promote and strengthen freedom of expression in these areas.

The aim of this project implemented in Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna and Batticaloa districts is to promote an increased understanding and respect for freedom of expression and information by empowering a community of youth to creatively express and advocate on gender sensitive freedom of expression and ethical and socially responsible media expressions.

Key activities include: 

  • University-based trainings on civic activism, right to information, digital citizenship, media ethics and freedom of expression.
  • Practical learning workshops on Media Production clustered as per media categories. (Short films, documentaries, news production, digital art etc.)
  • Inter-District exchange learnings between selected clusters
  • Idea Markets for clusters to pitch concepts to experts to produce content.
  • Two Annual forums for sharing learning and strengthening the Network
  • One national forum for the dissemination of the new media products and research findings to multiple stakeholders.

The Incubator Space for Promoting Information Right and Freedom of Expression (InSPIRE) project is funded by the EU and jointly implemented by Helvetas and SDJF.

Students exchange ideas at the annual forum.
Subashi Dissanayake (country director Helvetas Sri Lanka) at the annual forum.
inSPIRE COVID-19 Response Donation | © Helvetas Sri Lanka
Handing over donations (disinfectants, masks, etc.) to Peradeniya University. © Helvetas Sri Lanka
© Helvetas Sri Lanka
Practical learning workshop for aspiring journalists. © Helvetas Sri Lanka

News and Publications

November 2022 - Launch event
The European Union in Sri Lanka participated in the official opening of the very first incubator space in the country on November 10. The event took place at the University of Peradeniya in the presence of InSPIRE project partners Helvetas Sri Lanka and SDJF, the Vice Chancellor of the University, professors, faculty members and students.

October 2022 - FHSS establishes incubator room
On Monday, 03 October 2022, students and staff of the Department of Mass Communication of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) received an incubator space for the development of their professional, communication and journalism skills, aimed at students who want to pursue a career in journalism. More information can be found here.

How Helvetas Supports People in Sri Lanka

More than 42 years of engagement for development and peace in Sri Lanka