Sept 27, Colombo: A United States based research group has released a report stating that internet freedom in Sri Lanka is under threat.
The report titled "The Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media" prepared by Freedom House sates that internet freedom in the Sri Lanka has been at risk in the past few years and the recent acts by the government has illustrated the potential for further assaults on internet freedom in the coming year.
The report has noted that although internet penetration remains at around 15 percent of the population in Sri Lanka, there has been an incremental growth in the influence and use of online news sites and social-media tools for civic and political mobilization since 2007.
"The empowering impact of the internet in Sri Lanka has been undermined by the government’s efforts to arbitrarily block, filter, and regulate online content that provides dissenting views and reportage on sensitive political issues," it said.
It has pointed out that the government has responded with arbitrary blocks on news websites and occasional attacks against their staff, which has intensified since January 2011.
It has been stated that the government had suddenly announced a policy requiring websites that carry "any content related to Sri Lanka" to register with the authorities last year and that a prominent online journalist and cartoonist remains "disappeared," apparently in police custody.
According to the report, the country's judicial system has proven a poor safeguard against these infringements, with the Supreme Court recently refusing to even open proceedings on a petition that challenged the arbitrary blocking of five prominent websites focused on human rights and governance.
The report has also noted that the police in June this year had raided two news websites' offices, and in July the government had announced new registration fees for such sites.
The regulatory environment under the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) has led to concerns about transparency, independence, and overt politicization, it says.