Monthly Archives: July 2012

Report: Violation of Freedom of Expression Rights in Sri Lanka; Period: March 2012 – July 2012

Read as a PDF NfR report FOE violation in Sri Lanka, March – July 2012

NfR release – 27 July 2012

 Period: March 2012 – July 2012

 23 July 2012: Film Magazine banned for criticizing pro government film director

The distribution of the magazine called “Chitrapata” (Film) has been stopped due to the criticism of the movie and the Rajapaksa government in the article written by one Ranjith Perera.

 23 July 2012: Web site charged under Obscene Publications (Amendment) Act

The CID has informed the Colombo Magistrate’s Court that they have found material violating the Obscene Publications Act from the computers seized from the office premises of SrilankaMirror website.

11 July 2012: Websites registration fee imposed

GoSL imposed a first off registration fee of Rs. 100,000 would be levied from each website, and that there would be a 50,000 rupee annual fee on all news casting websites. Local and International press freedom organisations condemned the move.

 25 July 2012: CID questions Uthayan Editor

The Editor of the Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper was questioned by the CID following a news story referring to Army Commander Jagath Jayasuirya. The Editor of the newspaper Mr. Premanand had represented the news paper during the inquiry which lasted 4 hours, sources said.

 18 July 2012: Director News website questioned for forth day by CID

Director editorial of Sri Lanka X News and former director editorial of Sri Lanka Mirror, Ruwan Ferdinandis was summoned    to the CID for the forth day for questioning.

 16 July 2012: Death threats issued to journalists in Mannaar

Two newspaper reporters in Mannaar, S.R. Lambert and ASM Faszmi have been issued death threats for their reporting on inciting violence at Koanthaip-piddi jetty recently.

 17 July 2012: Six Sri Lankan journalists sue over their arrests

Six Sri Lankan web journalists of filed a court case Tuesday seeking for their arrests last month to be declared illegal and demanding compensation.

 07 July 2012: Defense secretary tells editor: They will kill you

Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa verbally abused and threatened Sunday Leader editor Frederica Janz during a telephone interview.

 05 July 2012: Journalist escape form an abduction attempt

An abduction attempt was made on Shantha Wijesooriya , 48  journalist of  Lanka X news website  at Nugegoda, suburb of Colombo city.  He was able to break free and escape in a three wheeler taxi. He left the country soon after.

 08 July 2012: Stay order against Jaffna magistrate by Appeal court

A stay order was issued by the Appeal Court today against the Jaffna Magistrate from taking steps to make the Editor of the Uthayan newspaper to apologize in court over an article which appeared in the Jaffna based newspaper.

 01 July 2012: Sri Lanka seals office of pro-opposition websites

Police sealed an office from which two pro-opposition news websites operated, arrested nine workers and seized computers and documents. A court order enabled the sealing. 

 29 June 2012: Magistrate summons Uthayan news paper editor

Uthayan Editor Thevanayagam Premananth was on Friday June 29 summoned to court by Jaffna Magistrate Manikavasagar Ganesaraja over an article published in the newspaper.

 26 June 2012: Govt imposes necessary registration of websites

 Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Mass Media and Information published an application form which the news websites operating within or outside the country publishing news on Sri Lanka and its citizens will have to use to register the site under the Ministry.

 26 June 2012: Five Tamil language web sites banned

Five websites were blocked by Sri Lanka services providers. The sites   www.tamilwindotcomwww., www.sarithamdotcom, www.ponguthamildotcom , www.pathivudotcom     were not accessible through any of the  Sri Lankan  internet service  providers. 

 13 June 2012: Ceylon Today editor in chief forced to quit

The management of the newspaper Ceylon Today forced its editor in chief Lalith Allahakkoon to resign on 13 June. The journalist received no letter of dismissal.,42866.html

 15 June 2012:  Journalist/ media activist receive threats to his life

Sujith Mangala de Silva, a journalist attached to ‘Lankadeepa’ newspaper  and the president of the United Media Forum, a media rights group complained to the  police headquarters that two unidentified men had visited his home and threatened him.

 05 June 2012: Channel-4 journalist deported form Colombo

Shirani Sabaratnam, who works at the London-based Channel-4 TV Station as an editor and a presenter, was detained on arrival and later deported to Britain.

 28 May 2012: Muslim journalist assaulted 

An official employed by the Sri Lankan Minister of Industries and Trade, Rishard Badurdeen, assaulted a 72-year-old Muslim journalist, MA Cader, for having taken part in a prayer expressing solidarity with Mannaar Bishop.

 12 May 2012: Journalist writes to IGP alleging plot against him

Senior journalist C.J. Amaratunga has written to the police chief alleging a plot by a section of the government against him using the police. The IGP has not responded to the letter send by the senior journalist.

 17 May 2012:  Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court rejecte the Internet Restrictions case

A three-member bench of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court, declined to give leave to proceed in a case filed by FMM under the country’s fundamental rights provisions against the blocking of certain websites.

 02 May 2012: CCD detains journalists

The Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) detained two journalists, Indika Sri Aravinda and Randiva newspaper photographer Sajeewa Chinthaka for taking visuals and images outside the CCD office in Dematagoda.

 29 April 2012: Govt. officials forcefully delete TV visuals

Officials from the Urban Development Authority (UDA) forcefully detained a TV cameraman and a producer of Sihatha TV abused them and deleted the visuals they had taken of some stalls being removed at the Pettah fish market.

 04 April 2012: Slander campaign against journalist union leader

A campaign of slander and vilification was launched against the leader of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) Gnanasiri Koththigoda, president of the SLWJA through state-controlled media.

 March 23 2012: Govt censors BBC Tamil, Sinhala services

Sri Lankan state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), which relays BBC’s Tamil and Sinhala services in the island, avoided airing Sandeshya, the BBC Sinhala service on Sunday. On 24th of March 2012 the Sinhala service was not aired at all as it carried a story quoting an exiled journalist Poddala Jayantha, who was forced to leave the island after being abducted and tortured.


Sri Lanka: Internet freedom further restricted by imposing registration fees

Press release/ 20 July 2012

 The NfR condemns the recent actions taken by the Ministry of Mass Media and Communication in Sri Lanka to curtail the dissemination of ideas and information through websites, imposing registration fees, including the blocking of certain websites, raids on the office of two websites and the arrest and detention of staff at the office.

 In November 2011, the government blocked 5 websites and asked all those websites carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka, uploading from Sri Lanka or abroad to apply for ‘accreditation’. Following this, many websites did in fact seek and obtain the said ‘accreditation’.

 On 11 July 2012, Mr. Keheliya Rambukwella the Minister of Mass Media and Communication, proposed to the Cabinet that the Press Council law be amended to make provision for the registration of newscasting websites. The Press Council (Act No. 5 of 1973) was reintroduced to Sri Lanka in June 2009, in the face of many protests from media freedom groups in Sri Lanka and abroad, who pointed to the fact that nothing about its arbitrary nature had changed in the years when it had been held in abeyance.

 According to the Cabinet press release that followed, it was announced that a first off registration fee of Rs. 100,000 would be levied from each website, and that there would be a 50,000 rupee annual fee on all news casting websites including those that had registered in January 2012. There is no registration fee for any  print media in Sri Lanka.

 The Cabinet press release stated that the main objective of this amendment was ‘to ensure that the contents of the websites do no harm to defenseless individuals’. Minister Rambukwella went on record saying that this step was necessary ‘ to maintain dignity and decorum in the media’.

 It is clear that without a clear definition of what constitutes a ‘news casting’ website this amendment and the regulation of websites imposed by the process of paid registration could become a tool for silencing democratic dissent and restricting the freedom of opinion and expression which is guaranteed by the Sri Lankan constitution as well as by international human rights law. In an environment in which repression of media freedom, intimidation and attacks of journalists and media activists and ‘hate’ campaigns against media freedom organizations have resulted in an exodus of journalists and media persons from the country, this new step can only be seen as a further erosion of media freedom and the right to democratic dissent in Sri Lanka.

 NfR strongly opposes all attempts to suppress people’s right to opinion, information and expression in order to control abuse of the internet and reiterate that the Sri Lankan Penal Code contains sufficient laws to control defamation if so required.

  NfR maintains its position that working with the media community to develop tools and mechanisms of self-regulation guided by universal principles of media ethics remains the only acceptable path to prevent any abuse of media freedom.