Internet freedom in Sri Lanka at risk says report

Internet freedom in Sri Lanka is at risk, according to a mew study by a U.S based research and advocacy group.

The Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media report by Freedom House says in Sri Lanka although internet penetration remains at around 15 percent of the population, since 2007 there has been an incremental growth in the influence and use of online news sites and social-media tools for civic and political mobilization.

The government has responded with arbitrary blocks on news websites and occasional attacks against their staff, a dynamic that has intensified since January 2011.

In November, the government suddenly announced a policy requiring websites that carry “any content related to Sri Lanka” to register with the authorities, and a prominent online journalist and cartoonist remains “disappeared,” apparently in police custody.

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.

In June 2012, police raided two news websites’ offices, and in July the government announced new registration fees for such sites, illustrating the
potential for further assaults on internet freedom in the coming year, the report said.