Truth-Telling in Sri Lanka
Leaders of former British colonies gather in Sri Lanka this week for a meeting that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa intended as a multi-million-dollar exercise in self-promotion. Thanks in part to Pulitzer Center grantee Callum Macrae it is becoming instead an opportunity to confront Rajapaksa on his government’s brutal suppression of Tamil separatists in 2009.
Callum’s film, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” has sparked demonstrations in India and in Malaysia a human rights group faces criminal charges just for showing the film. But the message is getting through: Indian Prime Minister Mammohan Singh announced this weekend that he will boycott the meeting, as is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. British Prime Minister David Cameron is still set to go but issued this remarkable tweet:
Cameron’s tweet is a reminder of the impact of journalism done right, how it can change minds and drive actions even at the highest reaches of government power.
Grantee photographer Tomas van Houtryve spoke with 13 classes across DC this past week, reaching some 400 students in grades 5 to 12 and sharing his amazing work along the border of North and South Korea. Then he went on to Philadelphia and reached 700 more—students and also 70 teachers from public and private schools who attended a workshop aimed at building an education community around Pulitzer Center reporting projects.
Tomas’s work was featured at FotoWeekDC along with photographs of the U.S./Mexico border by grantee Louie Palu. Tomas and Louie led a discussion of their work at the exhibit site and both came to our offices for a talks@pulitzer presentation that also featured grantee Greg Constantine. Greg’s work on the Rohingya, the stateless people of Burma, was projected all week on the exterior walls of the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In the photographers’ class visits we were struck, as always, by the diverse mix of issues raised and questions asked. At DC’s Plummer Elementary fifth graders had so many questions about North Korea that they were literally jumping up from their seats: “Do they have video games in North Korea?” they asked. “Chapter books?” “Washing machines?” “Sports?” “Why do they don’t like certain countries?”
Today, as we honor the service of U.S. veterans, it is also fitting to reflect on a group we don’t often associate with war—the tens of thousands of children around the world forced to become soldiers. Contributing editor Kem Knapp Sawyer, in a keynote speech to 130 middle schoolers at the Fall Model UN Conference in Washington DC, spoke about former child soldiers “who have the resilience to begin again.” She singled out grassroots organizations that provide much-needed support. “Their approach is a holistic one—healing the body but also healing the soul.“
Until next week,
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