Image: Surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies – CPJ
The government is in the process of gathering information pertaining to all social media networks used by journalists in Sri Lanka.
This is being done under the guise of providing journalists with a free insurance cover named ‘Asi-Disi’ originally included in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Vistas of Prosperity Policy Statement.
In order to receive the insurance cover, journalists are required to submit information pertaining to their social media networks including their private and official telephone numbers.
The application pertaining to the free insurance cover has already been published on the official website of the Ministry of Mass Media and Information.
Journalists are required to submit their WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook details including other social networks used by them including the phone numbers used to connect to the respective networks.
In addition, information pertaining to the bank accounts of journalists has also been requested.
When inquired regarding the information requested by the Ministry of Mass Media and Information, a senior official representing the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, who spoke on grounds of anonymity said that social media information pertaining to a policyholder was not a pre-requisite to obtaining an insurance cover.
He also said that bank account details are required, not at the outset, but at the time of benefit payment.
Therefore, he said, the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation would not have even requested bank account details at the very outset.
Meanwhile, sources at the Ministry of Mass Media and Information state that insuring journalists will not be handled by Sri Lanka’s state sector insurance companies, the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, and the National Insurance Trust Fund.
Instead, plans are underway to hand over the insuring journalists over to Softlogic Insurance headed by Ashok Pathirage, who is also the current head of SriLankan Airlines and a known close associate of the Rajapaksa family.