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Helidarawwa, video series debunking COVID-19 misinformation, launched in Sri Lanka

Helidarawwa, a journalistic initiative put together to debunk disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, was launched yesterday.

In recent weeks, there has been a rising volume of disinformation on coronavirus infection and governmental responses. Spreading through rumour, social media platforms, messaging apps and sometimes even mainstream media, these can confuse the public and hinder public health efforts to contain the pandemic. Helidarawwa seeks to analyse and counter key disinformation stories while promoting digital literacy among Sri Lankans.

The first episode, hosted by Nalaka Gunawardene and Anoma Rajakaruna, carries the following segments:

· On 3 April 2020, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a statement urging citizens to “beware of fake news and messages being circulated under my name via messenger platforms”. We ask the President’s media chief Mohan Samaranayake what led to this caution.

· Many media outlets reported on April 2 about a mosque in Kuttimale, Beruwala having held prayers during curfew and devotees resisting public health inspectors who came there for COVID-19 testing. We talk to journalist Tharindu Jayawardena on how he fact-checked and debunked this dangerous piece of fake news.

· A widely shared warning has been predicting a complete lockdown across Sri Lanka was imminent. We carry Deputy Inspector General of Police Ajith Rohana’s clarification that no such move is planned.

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