Sri Lanka Blocks Websites Insulting Political Leaders

By: Qichen Zhang on 7 November 2011

Officials in Sri Lanka blocked six websites this week, claiming that they insulted important political leaders in the country and committed "character assassination," reports the Washington Post. The sites taken down include those of the United Front Party, an opposing political group to the current regime, the Sri Lankan Guardian, and the Sri Lanka Mirror.

Sri Lankan laws do not prevent the publishing critical comments about the government, but they do take measures against defamation. Regardless of the legal legitimacy of the takedown, critics of the decision state that this is only another instance in a pattern of censorship in the country. In 2007, Tamilnet, a website supporting Tamils, was blocked and remains banned to this day. UNP member of parliament Mangala Samaraweera, one of the loudest critics of Internet censorship in Sri Lanka, said:

We are surprised by the government's call for websites to register with the government. It is nothing, but the government is paranoid.

The American embassy has also voiced concern over the blocking of Sri Lankan news site Lanka-e-News. In a statement, they wrote:

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.

The government has also recently stepped up its efforts to encourage websites to register with the Media Ministry. This effort to pressure websites available in Sri Lanka to conform to Sri Lankan media laws isn't surprising after last week's mass ban. But when Director General of Sri Lanka's Information Department Ariyarathna Athugala was asked the reason for the recent move, he gave no elaboration, just that the government "requests" websites comply with this new development.