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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Website blocking ‘a brutal crackdown’

A survey revealed that certain websites violate the country’s laws, says media ministry
Media watchdogs in Sri Lanka have raised serious concerns over the latest move by the government to block certain websites seem to be critical of the government.
The Free Media Movement (FMM) said the government is now targeting the new media despite facing international outcry over the threats and intimidation of media in Sri Lanka.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the ministry of mass media and information said websites carrying “any content relating to Sri Lanka” needs to be registered with the ministry “at their earliest”.

Many websites including Lankawaynews, the official website of the main opposition UNP, Sri Lanka Guardian, Paparasi news and Sri Lanka Mirror were blocked from Sri Lanka on the same day, say watchdogs.

“This is a brutal crackdown on media,” FMM convenor Sunil Jayasekara told BBC Sandeshaya.

A survey conducted by the media ministry, says the ministry statement, has revealed that certain websites violate the country’s laws in terms of defamation and character assassination.

No consultation

“The government did not hold any discussion with the media organisations regarding the registration of these sites and the sites were blocked on the same day the statement was released,” Mr Jayasekara added.

UNP’s official website is among those blocked in Sri Lanka

President Mahinda Rajapaksa-led government has once again shown its willingness to travel the extra mile in oppressing any dissent voices by the latest crackdown, according to FMM.

The United States last week expressed concern over the blocking of Lankaenews last week.

“Freedom of expression, including unfettered access to Internet news websites, is a basic right which must be respected,” the US embassy in Colombo said in a statement.

“We therefore call on the Sri Lankan authorities and the managements of Sri Lankan telecommunications firms to stop activities aimed at blocking free access in Sri Lanka to all legitimate media websites, including Lanka-e-News.”

Two other websites, Tamilnet and Lankanewsweb can only be accessed in Sri Lanka through proxy sites as a result of the government blocking.

Information Technology specialist Gihan Mendis has told Sunday Times newspaper that Sri Lanka did not have the resources to effectively block websites and a user could access any site simply by using a proxy.

The BBC could not contact Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella or ministry’s secretary, WB Ganegala, despite repeated attempts.
BBC Sinhala


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