Sri Lankan Government Blocks, as Minister Advocates its Demise

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has grave concerns for the future of media independence in Sri Lanka after the government blocked access to one of the country’s popular internet news sources TamilNet, and a government minister publicly advocated its demise.

According to an IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), the BBC’s Sinhala Service and AFP reported that Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said he would love to hire hackers to disable Tamilnet, but had not found anyone yet for the job.

“The IFJ echoes assertions from the FMM that this statement is basically government sanctioned cyber-terrorism against websites which do not toe its line,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“We call on the government to immediately retract these comments, which publicly advocate the violation of freedom of expression and the right to information,” Park said.

“Furthermore, we demand the government urgently unblock access to TamilNet, and uphold its responsibility to the Sri Lankan people to protect their rights,” she said.

The blocking of TamilNet is reportedly the first instance in which the Sri Lankan government has censored an internet publication.

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said it was a sad reflection of the country’s press freedom situation that the blockage occurred shortly after TamilNet marked its tenth year of production on June 7.

“The combination of government censorship along with the growing trend of self-censorship amongst journalists in fear for their personal welfare, can only further disadvantage Sri Lanka’s long-suffering public.”

According to the FMM, although TamilNet has been accused of bias toward the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by some groups, it also has a reputation for expressing alternative opinions and views to the mainstream media.

Established as a global news agency, TamilNet is reportedly an invaluable news source worldwide, particularly for its reportage in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries