Blog   |   Sri Lanka

Advice for colleagues on the digital front lines

If you're running a website that's come under attack, or is likely to, here is some advice on how to protect yourself.

First, a little background:

On Monday we filed an alert about the Sri Lankan government's blocking of at least five websites there. The move silenced just about all of the country's independent online voices. Two websites, Groundviews and its sister Sinhala site Vikalpa, have survived a few temporary takedowns, but for now they seem to be about the last two journalism sites posting independent analyses about Sri Lankan politics that are still up and running.

Sanjana Hattotuwa is one of the driving forces behind Groundviews and Vikalpa. In addition to overseeing the sites' editorial content, over the years he's made himself into something of a digital platform expert. In June he wrote "How to beat a web censor, but how censors could still shut down a site," which gives very practical, hard-won advice to anyone like him, trying to run a website in a hostile political environment. The piece gets technical, so I checked with Danny O'Brien, CPJ's Internet advocacy coordinator. He gave Hattotuwa's advice his stamp of approval--"Very accurate," O'Brien called it.

By the way, on Wednesday, the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Sri Lanka's largest independent think tank, issued a statement expressing concern about Monday's shutdown, signed by 58 organizations and individuals. They were also worried by a press release issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information on November 5, which requires, they say,  "all 'websites carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka... uploaded from Sri Lanka or elsewhere' to 'register' for 'accreditation.'" We'll leave it to the government to figure out how to enforce such a sweeping regulation. By way of an explanation, Groundviews says CPA is its "institutional anchor."

UPDATED: The spelling of Sanjana Hattotuwa's name has been corrected in the fourth paragraph.

Like this article? Support our work


The government's blocking of websites antagonising the government or more importantly the Rajapaksa Family is bordering on the insane.

Living in a global village the Information Department or the Media Minsitry have museum-piece heads who should have been retired or sent on refresher course in information technology.

Truth cannot be obfuscated by blocking websites. It only takes a proxy website to circumvent this foolhardy effort of the government.

There is a much more serious concern for the government in that it has to account for its performance in the last throes of the war where the entire media and humanitarian aid groups were banned access to the war zones.

Fortunately Channel4's Killing Fields docuemntary aired to the four corners of the world and it's follow-up which is being prepared by the anchor Jon Snow following Ofcom's verdict that Channel 4 videos were indeed authentic, the torture and rape of at least 300 asylum seekers claiming refugee status in the UK from medical examination and the group's presentation to the UN should set the record straight for SL govt's direct complicity in war crimes.

Media cannot be stifled by mere obstruction of websites. There are ways and means of letting the international community know of the government's atrocities.

Let us keep our fingers crossed that this government is brought before the international court of law and let the world know that it committed genocide against its own ethnic populace.

Pearl Thevanayagam

Pearl Thevanayagam November 11, 2011 8:34:51 PM ET

Yes, lets call for accountability on the part of the SL government but also lets insist on responsible journalism!

Chrissy Abeysekera November 18, 2011 9:52:44 AM ET