Blogging under water


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It feels slightly like being underwater, and out of air, but not yet near the surface.

To have stories to write, and not be able to write them, is a peculiar feeling.

A couple of very powerful, compelling, stuff-of-movies stories I have come across here in Sri Lanka, have emerged from chance encounters that led to lengthy conversations. But even with the names removed, the individuals could be identified, and the things I have learned could put them in danger.

I have to add a new low gear in my thinking process. Thoughts and words cannot just tear around and express freely, they must be checked before release. Child-proof gates set up at stairways as a toddler just learns to walk, and adults too must clamber over before they go up or downstairs.

It's not just a case here of 'would someone get mad' or 'would this cost me my job' if someone blogs impulsively.

They are stories that need to be told, and yet I cannot tell. In these cases not for my own safety, but someone else's.

I can't even write about why I can't write about them. Frustration. And then - a little guilty, as I am able to zip off to my war-free country, while the people here with their despair-mixed-with-fatigue-mixed-with-hope want so badly to be able to effect their own country's return to the peaceful place they know it can be.

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The other day, I was helping a Tamil journalist begin a blog.

The day before, I had said 'Give some thought to whether you want to blog under your name, with your byline, or whether you want to launch an anonymous blog."

He had decided to use his own name, as had most of the others.

He talked about a call he had after one newspaper column ... a man who didn't give his name. Questioning his story, wanting his sources, sounding ... unfriendly.

The Tamil journalist began to upload his photo to the blog, and I asked if he was sure. He talked about filling out the profile. I said depending on the kind of stories he was going to write in his newspaper column, he might want to consider keeping his profile somewhat general. He hesitated, momentarily. I'm not saying don't, I said, I'm just saying think about it.

The moment passed.

I am still unbalanced by a news-framed world, where his country is represented in a new headline a day, and most western countries including my own advise strongly against travel here.

'Why aren't you scared?' I asked him. 'As a journalist, I mean. About what you write. Aren't you scared?'

He shrugged, laughed.

'I am still alive'.

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On the surface of the water, breathing air; me still below with lungs bursting.

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