For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
* Of 81 applications, only 27 successful
Mass Media and Information Secretary W. B. Ganegala yesterday said that no one would be allowed to operate more than one news website under any circumstances.
In a brief interview with The Island, Ganegala said that 27 operators had received their licenses from Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, at the ministry, following a thorough inquiry conducted by the ministry with the assistance from relevant government agencies. He was speaking after the brief handing over ceremony, also attended by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Chief, Anusha Palpita, a former Director of Government Information.
The license is valid for a year.
Although the ministry had initially decided to issue licenses to 46 websites, a subsequent inquiry revealed that some operators managed more than one, the official said. The 46 websites had been run by 27 operators, who strenuously opposed the decision to restrict the number of websites each applicant could operate to just one, the Information Secretary said. The ministry rejected an appeal to allow operators the authority to manage more than one website.
Yesterday’s issue of The Island reported the government decision to register 46 news websites in line with a disputed decision taken late last year to regulate websites.
According to Ganegala, the Mass Media and Information Ministry had received 81 applications from those operating websites, though 17 of them didn’t even bother to appear before a special committee, which studied their applications.
The government last November ordered news websites to register with the Media Ministry, in what a section of the media and the opposition called a further step towards restricting media freedom after the banning of an anti-government website the previous month.
Ganegala said that 18 other operators had failed to meet the required criteria.
Asked whether the government was making an effort to curb those sections of the media critical of the UPFA administration, Ganegala said that anyone could secure the license by meeting basic requirements. It would be a mistake on the part of those operatives to believe they could run websites on the basis of false information.
The process would continue keeping with a Supreme Court directive that news websites should register with the Mass Media and Information Ministry.
Sri Lanka’s Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, last October blocked access within Sri Lanka to Lanka-e-News (www.lankaenews.com) website. The Opposition alleged that the government had moved against the website because it targeted President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers.
Ganegala said that the Mass Media and Information Ministry summoned all persons, who sent in 81 applications before the committee inquiring into their applications on Dec. 23 and Dec.28. “We also brought an expert from the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka and in the presence of each applicant checked their respective website,” he said. Thirty five applicants (17 plus 18) were disqualified due to failure on their part of appear before the committee or not providing required information, the ministry secretary said.
Ganegala assured that the ministry was ready to process fresh applications, even from those who unsuccessfully applied on the first occasion. The ministry was yet to decide on a license fee.
The official said that those accusing the government of curbing the media had conveniently forgotten what was going on in other parts of the world, including the West. Those managing websites should realize they couldn’t manipulate the system for their personal gain at Sri Lanka’s expense, he said, underscoring his resolve to constantly monitor local websites.
Websites registered with Media Ministry
The websites registered with the Mass Media and Information Ministry
http://www.jayasiriradio.com – Sri Nimal Padma Kumara, http://www.onlanka.com – M T Udaya Arunakantha, http://www.srilankasports.com – Hishan Welmilla, http://www.hothotlanka.com – Dhananjaya Sooriyaarachchi, http://www.lankabusinesstoday.com – Global Media Network Ltd, http://www.tamilaa.com – Pakkiyanathan Jayantha, http://www.srilankamirror.com – Kelum Shivantha, http://www.pawuraradio.com – Priyangika Godakanda, http://www.lankasitizen.com – J P V Vipulanga, http://www.micsrilanka.org – Muslim Information Centre, http://www.kalasem – M F A Besith, http://www.puvath.lk – S kaushalya Wickramasinghe, http://www.tharunayaweb.lk – Gigies (Pvt) Ltd, http://www.lankanews.lk – Athula I Athulathmudali, http://www.lankareporter.com – A Dammila Deeptha, http://www.rangalivefm.com – Nihal Fernando, http://www.lankika.net – Zarook Marikkar, http://www.siddioice.info – Sujith P Fernando, http://www.srilankapatriot.lk – Dr Telli C Rajaratna, http://www.nation.lk – Rivira Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd, http://www.lankaelink.com – Amila Kamkanange, http://www.lakfmradio.com – LakView Broadcasting Company (Pvt) Ltd, http://www.vfmradio.lk – Lanka Television Networks, http://www.karaitivu.org – Mendis Appu Prasath, http://www.sihasara.com – Sihasara Infortainment, http://www.maruthamunaionline.com – Suhail Jamaldeen, http://www.news360.lk – L C Prasanna Rodrigo.