The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly
condemns the reported ban on the popular news website www.lankanewsweb.com imposed by Sri Lanka’s
Government on July 12.
According to a statement posted on the website, which continues to remain available outside the
country, Sri Lanka’s state-controlled
telecoms company and two other internet service providers within the country
have been asked to block access to the website.
The management of lankanewsweb.com,
which is yet to be formally informed of the decision,
believes the ban is retaliation for two exclusive news reports featured on the
website in recent days.
One reported that Namal Rajapakse,
son of the Sri Lankan President, had
met with a hostile reception when he visited a camp for internally displaced people
(IDPs) in the country’s north. The other reported on the circumstances in which
a son of the Tamil insurgent leader,
Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed
after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were defeated by the Sri
Lankan army after a quarter-century of civil war.
“The IFJ is deeply disturbed by this latest action against
free speech by the Sri Lankan Government,”
IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
“Reports that the Government coerced news outlets to
suppress details of a visit by the President’s son to an IDP camp do it little
credit. Sri Lanka
has a functioning Press Complaints Commission,
which could have been approached with a complaint if the President’s son felt
that he had legitimate grounds for grievance.”
on lankanewsweb.com and groundviews.org – both reliable sources of information
based in Sri Lanka – have quoted Mervyn Silva,
a government minister known for several bruising encounters with the media in
recent years, as publicly claiming
credit for the murder of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunge in January and
a serious assault on senior journalist Poddala Jayantha in June.
Silva was reportedly speaking at a public meeting in his
parliamentary constituency, in the
context of a dispute he is engaged in with the leadership of the local council.
“The IFJ is shocked by the statements attributed to the
Minister,” White said. “We do not
yet credit these statements, but that
a Minister is reported to have claimed killing a journalist as a badge of
honour is cause enough for him to be severely disciplined by his party and
Silva continues to serve as Labour Minister, despite being indicted in November on charges of
illegal assembly, assault and
robbery, brought by the staff of a
news channel that has repeatedly suffered from his verbal and physical
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