FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

What are the legal provisions to register websites? – Mangala asks

(Srilankamirror) – MP and head of the UNP Communication Division Mangala Samaraweera has asked the authorities to inform him of the relevant legal provisions enabling the Ministry of Mass Media and Information to require the websites carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka to be registered with that ministry.

In separate letters to Director General of Government Information Prof. Ariyaratne Athugala and Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Anusha Pelpita, the parliamentarian notes that he is of the view that there are no legal provisions in Sri Lanka to register websites.

Mr. Samaraweera has written the letter regarding the blocking of the website http://www.lankawaynews.com, which is the official website of the UNP Communication Division.

He also notes that there is no pending legal matter with regard to the website, as claimed.

Copies of the letters have been forwarded to secretary of the Ministry of Mass Media and Information W.B. Ganegala.

The texts of the two letters are reproduced below.

Letter to Director General of Government Information Prof. Ariyaratne Athugala:

23rd November 2011

Mangala Samaraweera,
Member of Parliament,
Head of the United National Party Communication Division,
“Sirikotha”,
Pitakotte.

Prof. A Ariyarathna Athugala,
Director General of Government Information,
Department of Government Information,
No. 163, Kirulapona Avenue,
Colombo 5.

Dear Sir,
 Re: Direction to register websites with the Ministry of Mass Media and Information

I wish to inform you that I am a member of the Parliament representing the United National Party and I am the Head of the United National Party Communication Division. I wish to inform you that the aforesaid website namely http://www.lankawaynews.com is the official website of the United National Party Communication Division.

I wish to inform you that to my surprise on 5th November 2011 the access to the aforesaid website had been blocked. I wish to inform you that when attempts were made to access the said website, a message received indicating that the access was denied and that the reason for the denial of access could be due to a pending court matter. However I wish to inform you that there is no pending case against the said website as yet and it is well known to me since I am the Head of the United National Party Communication Division by which the said website is managed.

I wish to further inform you that on the very same day, on which the access to the aforesaid website was blocked, you issued a press release and in the said press release inter alia requested websites carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka to communicate with the Ministry of Mass Media and Information and to register their accreditation at their earliest. However I am of the view that there are no legal provisions in Sri Lanka to register websites and therefore I urge you to inform me of the relevant legal provisions enabling the Ministry of Mass Media and Information to require the websites carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka to be registered with the said ministry.

Thanking You.
Yours Faithfully,

CC;
Mr. W.B. Ganegala,
Secretary,
Ministry of Mass Media and Information,
No. 163, Kirulapona Mawatha,
Colombo 5.

Letter to Director General of Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Anusha Pelpita:
23rd November 2011
Mangala Samaraweera,
M ember of Parliament,
Head of the United National Party Communication Division,
“Sirikotha”,
Pitakotte.

Mr. Anusha Pelpita,
Director General,
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka,
No. 276, Elvitigala Mawatha,
Colombo 8.

Dear Sir,
Re: Denial of access to the website namely http://www.lankawaynews.com

I wish to inform you that I am a member of the Parliament representing the United National Party and I am the Head of the United National Party Communication Division. I wish to inform you that the aforesaid website namely http://www.lankawaynews.com is the official website of the United National Party Communication Division.

I wish to inform you that to my surprise on 5th November 2011 the access to the aforesaid website had been blocked. I wish to inform you that when attempts were made to access the said website, a message received indicating that the access was denied and that the reason for the denial of access could be due to a pending court matter. However I wish to inform you that there is no pending case against the said website as yet and it is well known to me since I am the Head of the United National Party Communication Division by which the said website is managed.

I wish to further inform you that on the very same day, on which the access to the aforesaid website was blocked, the Director General of the Government Information Department namely Mr. Ariyarathna Athugala issued a press release and in the said press release inter alia requested websites carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka to communicate with the Ministry of Mass Media and Information and to register their accreditation at their earliest. I wish to inform you that there was nothing in the said press release regarding the blocking of access to any website carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka.

I wish to inform you that so far I have not received any formal communication by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka, which is the authority responsible for the blocking of access to the said website, that a decision has been taken to block the access to the said website by visitors from Sri Lanka or the reasons for the blocking of access to the said website. However I am of the view that any of the Sri Lankan Authorities does not have power to block the access to a website by visitors from Sri Lanka except by an order of a competent court and therefore I urge you to inform me of the reasons for the blocking of access to the said website by visitors from Sri Lanka.

Thanking You.
Yours faithfully,

CC;
Prof. A Ariyarathna Athugala,
Director General of Government Information,
Department of Government Information,
No. 163, Kirulapona Avenue,
Colombo 5.

Mr. W.B. Ganegala,
Secretary,
Ministry of Mass Media and Information,
No. 163, Kirulapona Mawatha,
Colombo 5.

SLM

Information

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