Content to combat growing surveillance and censorship of online content in Sri Lanka

Just put out this press release on behalf of the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

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3 September 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: In late July 2012, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) released in Tamil, Sinhala and English, three short-form videos and informative posters on online freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. This content is now available on Flickr and YouTube, in addition to the other web repositories noted below. All the content can be distributed, embedded, emailed, broadcast and republished freely. The posters are designed to be clearly legible even in black and white, A4 prints.

  • On YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBE6952671E8E406B
  • On Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikalpasl/sets/72157630834666912/

The Sri Lankan government has since 2007 systematically clamped down on critical content online. Over 2012, this process has dramatically accelerated. The government is now actively pursuing the introduction of draconian laws and taxation to clamp down on, as it sees fit, inconvenient content online. When the new law comes into force in the near future, it will be a new chapter in censorship, affecting all web users in the country, whether or not they are activists or human rights defenders. As Sanjana Hattotuwa, Senior Researcher at CPA and Editor of the online civic media platform Groundviews notes,

The impunity of powerful individuals, retrogressive laws and censorious taxes respectively showcase so much of what’s wrong and getting worse with the freedom of expression our country. We are impervious to the violent censorship of Tamil dissidents in the country, writing against both LTTE and the State, during and after war. But the noose now ensnares a larger community. If you’re producing content on how you see and choose to describe Sri Lanka, you’re now liable for criminal prosecution, regulation and possible taxation. It’s as simple as that.

CPA produced in 2010 and again in 2011 two key reports, the only ones of their kind to date, looking at the erosion of the freedom of expression on the web and Internet in Sri Lanka. As far back as August 2010, when it was evident that the Sri Lankan government was becoming increasingly censorious online, we held a workshop in Colombo looking at how critical dissent online could be strengthened and protected. In early 2011, we produced an online security poster that was widely distributed amongst Sri Lankan civil society in print and electronically.

In mid-2011, we translated from English online security flashcards in Sinhala for activists to use when producing and sharing sensitive content online. Also in 2011, the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) endorsed a blog post by Sanjana Hattotuwa on how web based platforms could be made more resilient to censorship and denial of service attacks (Advice for colleagues on the digital front lines).

CPA’s posters and videos released in July 2012 complement this content and are aimed at informing ordinary users to leading activists who use the web in Sri Lanka today to be more safe in what they say, produce and do. The content can also help circumvent, to the extent possible, website blocks and online surveillance, including over mobile phones. All the videos and posters are available in Tamil, English and Sinhala. 

  • The POSTERS are available for download here – https://www.box.com/s/7e91672c5119f472f064. They are very high resolution and will print perfectly in black & white as well as in colour, on any size upwards of A4. You can also freely share, resize and embed on websites, blogs, Pinterest and Facebook.
  • Limited numbers of high-resolution colour prints of each set of posters will be printed in all three languages, and CPA will send them to those working on FOE issues in Sri Lanka. Please write to sanjanah [at] cpalanka [dot] org directly if you need any copies, which will be sent free of charge within Sri Lanka, subject to availability.
  • The VIDEOS are available at https://vimeo.com/album/2019015. They can be downloaded, viewed online over any PC or mobile device and embedded on any social media platform or blog.

Please engage with this content, and share as widely as possible amongst your friends, colleagues and through institutional networks. 

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