November 10, 2017
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined its affiliates the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) in expressing concern over the blocking of a news website in Sri Lanka on November 8.
The IFJ demanded an immediate withdrawal of the directives ordering the block to ensure smooth access to the website.
Lanka e-News, a UK-based website that often publishes reports critical of the Sri Lankan government, was inaccessible in Sri Lanka on November 8. The website was blocked after it published a report alleging corruption by the office of the president in a deal relating to purchase of warships, on its website.
The website said that ‘the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) which is under the president has ordered ISPs to block people in Sri Lanka accessing our website’ and ‘an official of the presidential secretariat had spoken to an Institution providing advertisements to Lanka e-News and instructed to halt that advertisement’. The TRCSL has made no comments on this.
C. Dodawatta, the FMM convener, said: “The FMM observes that informal censorship is prevalent within the country by obstructing the technical access to Lanka e-News website. By such obstruction, the government has demonstrated the likelihood of taking similar arbitrary actions towards any other website or media in the future. Therefore, FMM wants to emphasize the fact that this action of the current government has endangered the future of media freedom and democracy in Sri Lanka.”
The FMM demands the lifting of the ban on Lanka e-News to ensure media freedom and democracy in the country.
Lasantha Ruhunage, the SLWJA president, demanded an explanation and to ensure immediate public access to the website.
The IFJ said: "Arbitrary blocking of a website is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression; and is an undemocratic action. The blocking of the Lanka e-News in Sri Lanka is seriously concerning as it shows the intolerance of the government towards critical reporting. Such a move could jeopardize Sri Lanka’s recent progress in press freedom thus the IFJ urges the Sri Lankan authorities to immediately ensure free flow of information by allowing public access to the website.” – IFJ media release
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