Popular News Website Banned in Sri Lanka

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.”

 

Meanwhile, reports

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

government”.

 

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

violence.

 

For further information

contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in

120 countries worldwide