Sri Lankan government to block internet and censor independent web media?

There is an extremely disturbing news report published today on Lanka News Web which suggests the Sri Lankan government is pulling out all stops to censor and control free expression online.

This comes in the context of news that the President himself is now in charge of the Media Ministry, and that Anusha Palpita, the person in charge of the Government Information Department is now part time, also in control of the Telecommunications Regulations Commission (TRC). Quite apart from the report on Lanka News Web, these developments point to the consolidation of media control (and censorship) in the hands of the President and his apparatchiks, which is extremely disturbing given the Rajapakse regime’s ignoble record of protecting the freedom of expression.

The Lanka News Web article notes,

The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) is in the process of formulating regulations to be imposed on news websites, it is learnt. Chinese military intelligence specialists have reportedly been approached to formulate these firewalls. Sources from TRC said several Chinese specialists are to visit the country during the next few weeks for this purpose. The TRC is to also make it compulsory for all news websites operating in the country to register with the Commission. It is also planned to make news websites in the country to operate through an internet protocol address provided by the TRC. A similar system is followed by the Chinese government.

Emphasis mine.

This news item comes in the wake of another published by a newspaper on Chinese involvement in the TRC’s attempts to control social networking sites in Sri Lanka plus very disturbing trends in curtailing online news just before and after the recently held Presidential elections. As I noted in Chavez equates Twitter with terrorism: Disturbing parallels with Sri Lankan Government?, these include,

Though the Lanka News Web story is unverified, it is this context of existing censorship of online media that strengthens significant concerns over even more control and censorship, aided by the Chinese.

So the challenge, and it is both urgent and vital to online freedom of expression, is how we can verify this news story?

7 comments on “Sri Lankan government to block internet and censor independent web media?

  1. magerata
    February 12, 2010 at 4:29 am #

    Have you heard of “haystack”? Get in touch with the developers and get ready!

    • Sanjana Hattotuwa
      February 12, 2010 at 7:23 am #

      Hadn’t before, but there doesn’t seem to be a deployable programme out of Haystack as yet?

  2. Books
    February 12, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings. ~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823

  3. Lankan Indian
    February 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    all search engines google, yahoo, msn were down in SL at 12.00 on 20 Feb 2010. You could access these sites only thro proxy have the Chinese begun their work on Censorship already

  4. maqsmihil
    April 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    It’s ok to cut off internet if it’s in the best interest of our country.But if the government or the ruling party use it for their benefit it should be stopped.The foriegn media has lately been unfriendly towards us so they don’t help to our rebuilding process,But cutting of them prevents us from seeing things in here in their perspective.Government should not take unnecessary and drastic measures now..But say no to porn! thats relevent

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Government denies plans for web filtering, wants to establish online ethics « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - February 14, 2010

    […] stories published today address concerns over recent reports that the Sri Lankan government was planning to filter critical dissent online, in a context where websites have been blocked arbitrarily and without any legal authority. […]

  2. The Internet as a fundamental human right? « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - March 9, 2010

    […] During the war, the Sri Lankan government (or more accurately, the diktat of the Ministry of Defence) repeatedly cut off communications to the North and East of the country in particular. SMS services were arbitrarily shut down on Independence Day in 2008. Even post war and in 2010 alone, access to information on the web has been curtailed. […]

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