The latest edition of the London-based The Economist magazine which contained an article on Sri Lanka post-war recovery titled Rebuilding, but at a cost. was detained by the Sri Lanka Customs, according to its local distributor
He told the Sunday Times the copies of the latest issue arrived on Friday from Singapore but Customs officers detained them saying it would be released only after clearance from authorities was obtained.
Lakshman Hulugalle, Director General of the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said last night that he knew about the detention but no copy had been sent to him for scrutiny.
The article in The Economist refers to the manner in which land has been distributed in the east for tourism development and to build plush hotels. It also quotes a soldier who complains that he is forced to salute the likes of Vinyagamoorthy
Muralithran, a former LTTE leader who is now the deputy minister of resettlement, whereas war heroes like the former army commander Sarath Fonseka, languish in jail.
Sri Lanka has allowed its citizens to read the latest issue of The Economist magazine, which carries a story on a controversial change in the country's constitution after being held back by customs authorities for nearly a week.
Any material that comes to Sri Lanka should fall into the standards that we have set out, information minister Keheliya Rambukwelle told reporters.
One is that it must not make any kind of allegations within the country - could be civil - in terms of articles. So that has to be scrutinized. But that won't take time, unless it is really detrimental to the sovereignty.
The Economist had not been released by Sri Lanka's customs authorities for nearly a week after it arrived in the country last Friday.
The held back Economist referred to a contentious change to the constitution which nullified an earlier attempt to create a more independent public service and reduce arbitrary rule.
Responding to reporter's questions about which unit at Customs was legally empowered to censor publications, Rambukwelle denied there was censorship but said a customs unit like those that probed drugs looked at publications also.
The minister said authorities examined whether a publication affected national security , sovereignty or promoted racial disharmony, as a government policy before release.
Since January 2009 The Economist has been banned or censored in 12 of the 190-odd countries in which it is sold, with news-stand copies particularly at risk.
India, the only democracy on our list, has censored 31 issues and at first glance might look like the worst culprit. However its censorship consists of stamping Illegal on maps of Kashmir because it disputes the borders shown.
China is more proscriptive. Distributors destroy copies or remove articles that contain contentious political content, and maps of Taiwan are usually blacked out.
In Sri Lanka both news-stand and subscription copies with coverage of the country may be confiscated at customs. They are then released a couple of weeks later (sometimes sooner if the story is also reported by another news outlet).
In Malaysia the information ministry blacks out some stories that it judges may offend Muslims, among other things.
And in Libya, four consecutive editions were confiscated in late August/early September 2009, the first of which featured a piece critical of Muammar Qaddafi.
Images can also prompt action. The cover of last year's Christmas issue showing Adam and Eve was censored in five countries. Malaysian officials covered up Eve's breasts. Pakistan objected to the depiction of Adam, which it said broke a
prohibition on depicting Koranic figures.