June 22, 2007
Media rights groups attacked Sri Lanka's government Thursday for
blocking domestic access to a website favouring the Tamil Tiger rebels
and for saying it would like hackers to disable the site.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Colombo should immediately unblock
the Tamilnet.com website.
"Sri Lanka's Internet service providers have been blocking access to the
website on the government's orders since June 15," RSF said. "The
government must put a stop to this censorship and restore access to the
site at once."
A local rights group, the Free Media Movement (FMM), also criticised
government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella over comments in which he said
he would "love" to hire hackers to pull down Tamilnet.
The FMM said Rambukwellas statement was "tantamount to government
sanctioned cyber-terrorism against websites that do not toe its line."
"The FMM seeks urgent clarification from the government as to whether
Minister Rambukwellas comments are indicative of official government
policy to shutdown, disrupt or censor content and websites on the
But Sri Lanka's Media Minister Anura Yapa insisted his ministry had
nothing to do with preventing users of Sri Lanka Telecom, the country's
main Internet service provider, accessing Tamilnet.
"It is unreasonable to level charges against the government," Yapa told
reporters here. "We have nothing to do with this."
Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said the security forces had not
ordered the blocking of Tamilnet either.
"Security forces have not asked the Tamilnet to be blocked,"
Despite the denials, Sri Lanka Telecom's Internet service help desk told
callers that the "government has asked to block Tamilnet."
"You can access any other site, but you can't access Tamilnet," callers
are being told.
The government owns just under 50 percent of Sri Lanka Telecom, which is
run by NTT of Japan.
A Colombo-based editor of Tamilnet, Dharmaratnam Sivaram, was shot dead
by unidentified gunmen in April 2005. The killing remains unresolved.
Some Internet service providers, who have their main offices abroad,
still allow access to the website.
Tamilnet is an influential source of Tamil views on the island's
separatist conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives in a
35-year campaign by rebels for a separate homeland for minority Tamils.
(c) 2006 AFP
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