For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its Sri Lankan affiliates in condemning the continued blocking of the news portal Lanka-e-News by internet service providers in Sri Lanka since October 18.
According to information received from IFJ affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM), two major internet service providers in Sri Lanka, the government-owned Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) and the privately owned Dialog Axiata PLC, have blocked access to the website. A smaller service provider Mobitel, which is partly owned by ST, has also reportedly started blocking the website.
The website continues to be available through relatively smaller internet service providers in Sri Lanka and is fully accessible from abroad.
The FMM has in a statement put this latest act of suppressing access to the news portal in a clear sequence of vindictive actions by the Government of Sri Lanka or political agents acting on its behalf. This is a sequence that includes the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda, a cartoonist and columnist for Lanka-e-News in January 2010, the torching of its office premises in January 2011 and the arrest of its news editor in April.
The website has since then been operating from a location outside Sri Lanka.
According to an explanation posted by Lanka-e-News, the decision to block access to the site does not come on judicial or regulatory grounds. The Sri Lanka Telecom Regulatory Commission (SLTRC) has said that it is not in any way responsible for blocking the website, and no judicial body has been reported to have requested an injunction against it.
The FMM reports that similar arbitrary actions have in the past been taken against two other news portals, LankaNewsWeb and the Sri Lanka Guardian. Award-winning citizen journalism website Groundviews, and its Sinhala-language counterpart Vikalpa were temporarily blocked by SLT on June 20.
“The IFJ fully supports our Sri Lankan affiliates’ mobilisation of public opinion against this vindictive action, which effectively denies Sri Lankans access to an important source of information,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“The Government of Sri Lanka and agencies such as the SLTRC must investigate and clarify the role of state authorities in the blockage of Lanka-e-News as a matter of priority.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific
Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific