SRI LANKA: Censorship is an integral part of the contemporary political system

The government decision to call for registration of websites that publish any material relating to Sri Lanka has come under severe criticism from local journalists and other concerned persons and groups and also from many international organisations. While requiring registration the government has taken action to close down the facilities for the viewing of several websites. Many of these websites have existed for a considerable time and have wide readerships.

For several years the Sri Lankan government directed its attacks on the print and television media. This goal was pursued ruthlessly. The killing of editors and other journalists, serious physical injuries caused to others involved in the media, attacks on television crews and attacks on stations became part of the normal routine in Sri Lanka. Everyone who takes a new initiative to publish was aware of the great risk that follows such initiatives.

Only those who are with the government are allowed the freedom of expression and publication. A virtual monologue has been imposed on the whole nation. Keeping all those shut for the free media and for persons with views opposed to the government is perhaps the most primary objective that is followed passionately by the government, particularly through enthusiastic project management by the Ministry of Defence.

Contemporary censorship in Sri Lanka is a comprehensive one. While the government creates various kinds of pressures against the free media another branch is also employed for activities for achieving this same objective. This is the underworld element that is today a very integral part of the machinery of repression. Recent events relating to Duminda Silva has revealed the details of the link between the illicit drug business and the underworld. Monies earned from the drug trade are generously used for payments to slum dwellers that are then brought into the roads to support the government and oppose all opposition forces. During the Katunayake incident at which a young man was killed, in order to prevent protestors participating at the funeral, people armed with poles were placed on the roads in all parts of the city. They were to compliment the police and the army in suppressing protestors who were expected to come to attend the funeral.

The inner core of the social fabric of Sri Lanka today is seriously crushed and trampled by militaristic and mafia combinations together with the lawless policing. This is supplemented also by the ever expanding intelligence services. These intelligence services are now engaged in the collection of information from all organisations about all their activities.

The grand explanation for all that is that there is a possibility of the revival of the LTTE and that there is also the possibility that the LTTE may gain a linkage with the state sector. The propoganda line is to preach the story of this great danger of an LTTE revival as an excuse to interfere with all independent organisations and persons so that the government would have the monopoly of creating public opinion.

The present attempt to suppress the web publications under the pretext that some of the country’s leaders are being maligned by them is an extension of this censorship that has been achieved in other areas.

The government is thoroughly aware of the mass discontent. By taxation on commodities and services the government has imposed a heavy burden on the people. The failures of economic policies compelled the government to impose more taxes and hardship on the people.

To rule over an unhappy people is the task the government is faced with. In earlier times during times of such discontent the possibilities for regime changes acted to prevent crises of discontent. However, the present government has taken away this option.

Thus, what is being done is to punish discontented and unhappy people. Censorship therefore has become an integral part of government policy. It is a component of the overall strategy of repression.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-173-2011
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Freedom of expression,