Sri Lankan government blocks websites

New York, November 7, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by reports that access to at least five Sri Lankan websites has been blocked by the country’s government.

The sites were blocked because they had maligned top government officials, the secretary of the media ministry told the BBC. A Sri Lankan official said, “A number of websites have already been blocked because they have engaged in ‘character assassination’ of the president [Mahinda Rajapaksa],” the BBC reported.

The BBC reported a government official saying that any website dealing with Sri Lankan affairs must register with the government or face legal action. Although newspapers, radio, and television stations must already register with the government before they start publishing, such requirements are new for websites, The Associated Press reported.

“Blocking online media is another step in the Sri Lankan government’s plan to silence any media critical of its policies or personnel,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The government must stop targeting news media and allow them to resume reporting.”

The blocked websites include Lanka eNews, Sri Lanka Mirror, Sri Lanka Guardian, and Lanka Way News, according to Anusha Palpita, the director general of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, the AP reported.

Lanka eNews, a staunchly anti-government website, has been under attack for more than two years. In April, the site’s staff members were arrested then released weeks later, and in the same month, the site was temporarily banned by a court order. In January, the offices were hit with an arson attack. The site’s political cartoonist, Prageeth Eknelygoda, has been missing since January 2010.