| by Sunil Jayasekara & Hana Ibrahim
(October 24, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Free Media Movement (FMM) unequivocally condemns the recent action by internet service providers Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) and Dialog Axiata PLC to block access to the Lanka E News website in Sri Lanka. The blockage by the State owned SLT and the privately owned Dialog is a serious threat to both mainstream and alternate media, media freedom and the democratic right to free expression.
The blocking of access to Lanka E News, the FMM believes, is a continuation of efforts by the authorities to control the alternate media and deny the public access to dissenting views. Two popular websites, Lanka News Web and Sri Lanka Guardian have been blocked in Sri Lanka for a long period.
The action against Lanka E News is the latest in a series of threats and attacks faced by the website. Prageeth Eknaligoda, a journalist and cartoonist of the website has been missing since January 2010, its office was set ablaze in January 2011 and its news editor was arrested and remanded in April, purportedly for obstructing investigation. The website was also banned by an order of the Magistrate’s Court. No proper investigations have been carried out into the disappearance of Eknaligoda or the arson attack.
In an environment where space for dissent is increasingly shrinking, where journalists and media houses are constantly threatened and attacked for daring to write or report the truth and access to websites are routinely blocked, the action against Lanka E News is cause for serious concern.
The FMM, while condemning the blocking of Lanka E News, strongly urges the government to immediately restore access to all news websites are that blocked and desist from carrying out similar undemocratic actions in the future. It also urges the government demonstrate its commitment and responsibility to promoting and maintaining media freedom.