The International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ) is informed by partner organisations and affiliates in Sri Lanka of an
alarming decision by the Ministry of Mass Media and Information to levy a
registration fee on news websites and charge them an annual fee for renewal of
According to a press
release published on the website of the Ministry on July 13, the cabinet
had two days earlier approved the proposal to levy a registration fee of LKR
(Sri Lankan rupees) 100,000 (approximately USD 750) on websites that carry news
and current affairs content on the country. These websites would moreover be
liable to pay an annual renewal fee of LKR 50,000 (approximately USD 375).
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Mass Media and
Information, Keheliya Rambukwella has stated on record that amendments will
soon be enacted to the Sri Lanka Press
Councils Act to allow the levy of a registration fee on news websites. The
main objective of this amendment would be, in his words, “to ensure (that) contents
of the websites do not harm defenceless individuals”.
“We view this move as the third stage in a
crackdown on user generated content on the web, following the ban of four
websites in November last year for their failure to register with the Ministry
and the police raids carried out on the office premises of two news portals in
June”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
rights petition challenging the registration rules, that “the power of regulating
the flow of information, once granted, could easily be misused”.
“We call on the Sri Lankan government to
reverse course”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
“The protection of privacy, personal
reputation and the public interest is much better achieved through post facto corrections and sanctions,
rather than by imposing prior restrictions and erecting increasingly formidable
barriers to entry into the world of information flows”.
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950
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