Lanka cracks down on porn, anti-govt websites

Qadijah Irshad
Filed on January 15, 2012

COLOMBO - Following a Supreme Court order to register all websites in Sri Lanka, the government banned 30 websites and registered 45 of the total websites that sought approval.

The controversial website registration and banning issue erupted late last year with media movements, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and the United States condemning the move. However, the government has defended its stance in banning all pornographic sites and sites that carry inflammatory anti-government sentiments. Websites without a clear “contact details” espousing anti government sentiments are especially suspect, said sources.

The regulation of websites by the government, however, has received flak from several quarters. The UNP called the move restriction on media freedom. The Free Media Movement (FMM), a Sri Lankan media watchdog, criticised the ban calling it a “brutal crackdown”.

Local media reported that the registration of the approved websites that began yesterday would entirely depend on those seeking registration meeting the required criteria. The process would continue keeping with the Supreme Court directive that news websites should register with the mass media and information ministry.

During the course of the three-decade separatist war against the Tamil Tiger terrorist group, the Sri Lankan government banned access to pro-LTTE websites. The first web censorship began in 2007 when the LTTE was banned for security reasons when the government stepped up military operations two years prior to winning the war against the LTTE.

However, some banned websites, including can still be accessed within Sri Lanka through proxy sites.

Last year the government blocked the Lanka-e-News ( website on defamation grounds and providing “false news”. The UNP, however, alleged that the website was blocked because it targeted President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers Defence Secretary Gotabhya Rajapaksa and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.

The United States strongly objected to the blocking of Lanka-e-News, which was later lifted after an apology by the website, calling the move a hindrance to democracy.

“The United States believes that a free and independent media is vital to ensuring the health and continuation of any democracy. Freedom of expression, including unfettered access to internet news websites, is a basic right which must be respected,” said a US embassy statement.

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