A Sri Lankan court has ordered a dozen websites to be blocked for allegedly containing pornographic material involving local women.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) was asked to block access to the 12 websites, including redtube.com, an adult-content sharing portal, the Lankadeepa newspaper said.
There was no immediate comment from the TRC, which a year ago announced it was filtering websites showing obscene, pornographic and other sexually explicit material.
Colombo Chief Magistrate Nishantha Hapuarachchi said the censorship order was issued following a police complaint that some videos contained Sri Lankan women and children and that the free access to the sites corrupted society.
The websites' owners have 14 days to respond and if they do not, the TRC has been asked to continue blocking those sites, the magistrate was quoted as saying.
Sri Lanka already maintains an unofficial ban on websites of dissidents by getting local Internet Service Providers to block access to those portals.
The Government is to propose tough new laws to curb adult movies, advertisements, publications containing obscene materials appearing in various forms in Sri Lanka.
Cultural Affairs and National Heritage Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene at a press briefing in Sigiriya yesterday said that a decision had been taken after considering the harmful impact of such materials to society at large and its contribution
towards the erosion of the social values in Sri Lanka.
In this regard, wider power would be relegated to the existing Censor Board to enact these proposed measures. Mobile service providers would also be advised to refrain from airing such materials.
The Minister also noted that the proposals in this regard would be submitted to the Cabinet shortly.
Cabinet Spokesman and Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa yesterday said he was disappointed and displeased at the Cabinet Cultural Affairs Minister Piyasiri Wijenayaka had trespassed the purview of his cabinet portfolio in undertaking to
control the telecast of films, Tele Dramas and Commercials.
He may be unaware of what he is doing. But it is unethical and against the collective responsibility of Ministers when he said he was to introduce legislation to control 'Adults Only' telecasts, Minister Anura Priyadharshana said.
Sri Lanka's Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) has announced plans to install ISP-level software that will block pornographic websites, according to local news reports. The software will reportedly be ready within six weeks.
Currently, we are having discussions with the Information and Communication Technology Department of the University of Colombo for technical assistance to launch the software, TRC Chairman Anusha Palpita said.
Palpita added that discussions are currently being held with all internet service providers in the country regarding the implementation of the software.
Newspaper editors in Sri Lanka refused to publish pictures of men and women who are wanted by police for appearing on porn websites in the country.
Under a crackdown on pornography on the Indian Ocean island, police are trying to trace local men and women pictured in compromising poses and had asked newspapers to reproduce mugshots of 83 of them.
We were given the photos with a request to publish them, but we decided not to, said Siri Ranasinghe, chief editor of the mass circulating Sinhalese daily, the Lankadeepa: It is a question of privacy. We don't know who these people are
and under what circumstances the police got these pictures. Technology can be used to manipulate pictures, so we decided to leave them out.
All national dailies refused to print the photographs except for the Lakbima Sinhalese newspaper, which published the mugshots at the bottom of page two, without any reference to the allegations against them.
The Police will now release to the police stations the pictures of the locals who acted in these films to trace them. This is in contrast to the previous plan to give maximum publicity, through the media, to the pictures of the locals and get
help to identify them.
However, only one newspaper had published the pictures. Police said they had obtained a court order to publish the pictures, but were unable to confirm whether the pictures were doctored or not.
Police had been able to track down only three persons from some 83 pictures which had been released to the media. The three persons were released on bail after being produced in court.
Sri Lankan police have arrested and bailed seven people accused of appearing in pornographic films. Police said the seven had to make statements and pay a surety before being released.
The suspects face up to six months in jail or a fine of 10,000 rupees ($89.75), or both, if convicted. The suspects were allegedly identified by photos obtained by the police from the now banned local porn web sites.
The Sri Lankan media has reported that some of the pictures released by police were in fact from private videos released by estranged lovers, while some appeared to have been secretly shot with hidden cameras.
Reporters Without Borders deplores the action of two Sri Lankan Internet Service Providers in blocking access to the independent news website Lanka-e-News and calls on them to explain themselves. If they are doing it at the government's behest,
they have become accomplices to state censorship. The site has been inaccessible since 18 October.
This decision by Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) and Dialog Axiata PLC to block the Lanka-e-News site reflects the increase in censorship in Sri Lanka, Reporters Without Borders said. We urge these ISPs not to discriminate against news sites
that are critical of the government and to restore access to Lanka-e-News. The government must also stop pressuring ISPs and guarantee their independence.
The hounding of Lanka-e-News has intensified this year. An arson attack on its headquarters in the Colombo suburb of Malabe in the early hours of 31 January gutted most of the building including the rooms housing its computers and library and
forced it to suspend all activities.
The Lanka-e-News political journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda is meanwhile still missing. He disappeared on 24 January 2010.
Several other sites, including the Sri Lanka Guardian, are permanently blocked. Groundviews and its partner site Vikalpa were temporarily blocked on 20 June, like the Transparency International site.
Last year the government blocked the Lanka-e-News (www.lankaenews.com) website on defamation grounds and providing false news . The UNP, however, alleged that the website was blocked because it targeted President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his
brothers Defence Secretary Gotabhya Rajapaksa and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
The United States strongly objected to the blocking of Lanka-e-News, which was later lifted after an apology by the website, calling the move a hindrance to democracy.
The United States believes that a free and independent media is vital to ensuring the health and continuation of any democracy. Freedom of expression, including unfettered access to internet news websites, is a basic right which must be
respected, said a US embassy statement.
Sri Lanka will amend its current media law in order to bring in all news websites and electronic media into its censorship net, the government said, a week after it raided and temporarily closed down two anti-government websites.
The amendments to the Press Council Law enacted in 1973 will allow the government to order websites and electronic media to follow media codes in addition to print media.
Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told Reuters:
We will bring amendments to the Press Council Law to include the electronic and web media to ensure accountability.
Manik de Silva, a director of Sri Lanka's Press Complaint Commission and a member of the country's Editor's Guild said:
This is obviously to control the media. Any strengthening of media laws will be used to further the interest of political parties in power rather than the national interest.
Sri Lankan authorities have taken measures to ban websites hosting what they claim to be obscene content and prevent the spread of such materials through the Internet, a government official said.
Director General of Sri Lanka Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Anusha Pelpita said that over 1,000 obscene websites have been banned in Sri Lanka. He further said that the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission had recently banned several
pornographic websites produced with Sri Lankans.
Sri Lanka's new government which came to power promising media freedom, has revived a move to censor news web sites.
The Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media took out an advertisement in the state-run Daily News websites that they must register before the end of this month or will be considered unlawful.
Former government of Mahinda Rajapaksa slapped restrictions on news websites which had become the most effective medium of dissent during his decade in power. However, there is no law in Sri Lanka to implement such a registration.
The ministry in its latest advertisement did not say under what law it required websites to register. However, a purported Application for Registration of News Casting Web sites demanded to know the names, addresses and telephone numbers
of all contributors.
Sri Lanka's government has now admitted it had no legal authority to call for the registration of news websites and rolled back an order which amounted to regulation and potential censorship of the Internet.
The Parliamentary Affairs and Media Ministry had taken the cover of two supreme court decisions on website regulation, but it was pointed out that the highest court had only asked the ministry to come up with guide lines.
Deputy minister Karunaratne Paranavithana agreed that the court had not conferred legislative powers on his ministry and that what they proposed to do had no legal basis. But he added:
We are in the process to develop a mechanism. We will introduce it to parliament, only then will it become law.