For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Media Release: Sri Lanka/ June 21, 2011
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by reports that access to independent news portals Groundviews and Vikalpa was temporarily blocked on Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) ADSL on June 20.
The two news portals are among the few openly critical media outlets in the country. The award-winning citizen journalism portal Groundviews, published in English, and the Sinhala-language partner site Vikalpa are hosted by non-government organisation the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo.
The Sri Lankan website of corruption watchdog Transparency International was also temporarily blocked on SLT ADSL. All three websites are now accessible in Sri Lanka, though it remains unclear whether the outage was the result of a government directive as is widely believed, or a technical fault.
“In a media landscape riddled with fear and self-censorship, the IFJ hopes the temporary blockage of important sites that support uncompromising voices was an aberration, and not an indication of things to come,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
Other critical news media have been blocked by the Government previously, with Tamilnet, Lanka News Web and Sri Lanka Guardian all permanently blocked.
Online news portal Lanka-e-News has been temporarily blocked several times, most recently on April 28, when a Magistrate’s Court ordered Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) to suspend the organisation’s online services.
The ban came after journalist Shantha Wijesooriya was charged with contempt of court. It was lifted on May 12 when the charges were dropped, after Lanka-e-News published a retraction and two apologies for the report in question.
Groundviews moved to quickly establish a mirror site at http://gvsrilanka.wordpress.com/ during the outage, and has instructions for circumventing any future blockages on its website.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919