New Delhi, March 7, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Sri Lankan authorities to restore access to social media and messaging applications. Citing Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senartne, Reuters reported that the government today asked service providers to block the networks amid anti-Muslim riots and violence. Sri Lanka yesterday imposed a state of emergency, the first since the end of the civil war era, prompted by fears that the rioting could spread, according to the Guardian.
“Sri Lanka’s decision to shut down social media during the emergency curbs journalists’ ability to gather and distribute news, and deprives people of essential information,” said Steven Butler, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator. “It won’t bring peace, and will likely only stoke the spread of rumors.”
Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment Minister Harin Fernando today in a statement singled out WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook, saying they would be blocked for 72 hours to limit the spread of hate speech and violence, according to news reports.