Sri Lanka continues its repressive policies against free media despite growing world attention to its human rights violations. According to journalists, it continues to block news portals and harass journalists publishing reports critical of the government.
Sri Lankan journalists in exile have expressed concern at the trampling of media freedom in their motherland, where Tamil minorities have been fighting for a separate nation.
Journalists from two portals were questioned at the notorious 4th floor of the Criminal Investigation Department in Colombo
Networking for Rights in Sri Lanka (Nfr Sri Lanka), a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders in exile, has condemned the blocking of five Tamil news websites - http://www.tamilwin.com, http://www.athirvu.com, http://www.saritham.com, http://www.ponguthamil.com, http://www.pathivu.com – which cannot be now accessed through any of the Sri Lankan internet providers.
A statement issued by NfR’s Steering Committee - Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland) – pointed out how the internet media in Sri Lanka is playing a critical role “in a situation where print and electronic media is under severe self censorship.”
The statement said: “NfR believes that open discussion and freedom of information on issues that affect citizens is pivotal in the democratisation of post war Sri Lanka. NfR views this unhealthy development as a continuation of media censorship imposed by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL).
“Although the GoSL has been accusing internet based media for unethical reporting, the very same GoSL controlled media is well known for publishing politically motivated, cooked up stories, and many media monitoring reports have shown that state controlled media is heavily biased in covering politically important issues.
“In that context NfR views this ban as yet another politically motivated anti-democratic step towards creating a mind controlled society in Sri Lanka.
“TamilNet, a popular news and opinion site on Tamil issues was the first site blocked by the GoSL. On June 19, 2007, on the orders of the GoSL all Internet Service Providers in Sri Lanka blocked the access to the TamilNet website.
“Since then GoSL has blocked dozens of news and opinion web sites reporting on Sri Lanka. Today major Sinhala language news and opinion websites operating from outside Sri Lanka, such as http://lankaenews.com, http://www.lankanewsweb.com, http://www.srilankaguardian.org/ remain blocked.”
“NfR calls on all media and democratic organizations to take note of this continuing media censorship in Sri Lanka and support and strengthen alternative Sri Lankan media in defense of basic democratic rights of all people in Sri Lanka.”
In a separate statement issued on June 29, NfR said 25 officers from Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Colombo Crime Division (CCD) raided two popular tri lingual news and opinion web sites operated form Colombo - http://english.srilankamirror.com/ and http://www.srilankaxnews.com/ .
The statement said: “Sri Lanka Mirror is registered with the information ministry and SriLankaXnews is the official website of the opposition United National Party.
“The journalists arrested are being questioned at the notorious 4th floor of the Criminal Investigation Department (in Colombo). They are:
1. Mr.Kalum Shwantha Rodrigu – Editor SriLanka Mirror
2. Ms.Shiwanthi Manawadu, Weekend editor, SriLanka Mirror
3. Ms.Himashi Karunarathan, Features editor, SriLanka Mirror
4. Ms.Tarindu Rajapaksha, Feature writer, SriLanka Mirror
5. Mr.Ajith senavirathna, Photo journalist, SriLanka Mirror
6. Mr.Zidick Kariyappa, Editor, Tamil section, Sri Lanka X news
7. Mr.J. Subash Jayawardana, Journalist , Feature writer, Sri Lanka X news
8. Mr.Asanaka Nimathna, Managing Editor. Sri Lanka Mirror - TWL Bureau