All Sri Lankan news sites have been ordered to “register” with the government’s Ministry of Mass Media and Information in response to accusations of defamation on Sri Lankan news sites, Sri Lankan “Internet newspaper” Colombopage.com reported.
According to Colombopage, the ministry claims that “many reports posted on dissenting websites target especially to discredit the image of the President, government and top officials in the country disregarding media ethics and violate their privacy.”
The ministry also called on Sri Lankan news sites to follow ethics codes and Sri Lankan laws. The Sunday Leader noted that “several websites” have been blocked recently including Lankae News and Sri Lanka Mirror. According to the Associated Press, in total five news sites have been censored “because they insulted key political leaders.”
Reuters reported that the U.S. Embassy questioned Sri Lanka’s Telecommunication Regulation Commission’s censoring Lankae News.
The embassy issued a statement, according to Reuters:
“The United States believes that a free and independent media is vital to ensuring the health and continuation of any democracy. Freedom of expression, including unfettered access to internet news websites, is a basic right which must be respected.
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“We therefore call on the Sri Lankan authorities and the management 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.”
StinkyJournalism wrote to the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka’s Christopher Teal asking why the U.S. State Dept. decided to weigh in on this subject. Teal responded to StinkyJournalism: “The statement you reference is something we put out last week. http://srilanka.usembassy.gov/pr-1nov11.html As we stated, free and independent media are vital to ensuring the health and continuation of any democracy.”
The AFP noted that Sri Lanka started online censoring four years ago. Sri Lanka is ranked 158 of 178 countries for press freedom by Reporters without Borders. Sri Lanka is also listed as a “country under surveillance” for Reporters without Borders’ internet enemies list.
According to Reuters, Lankae News was banned in May after it reported “false news” but the ban was removed when Lankae News apologized. Reporters without Borders noted that Lankae News’ editor Sandaruwan Senadheera left Sri Lanka last year with his family and was “forced to seek asylum in the United Kingdom.” Also one of Lankae News’ cartoonists, Prageeth Eknaligoda, went missing last year.
iMediaEthics wrote in February when Lankae News was attacked by arson.