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Sri Lanka blocks 2 more independent news websites

May 21, 2014

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Two independent news websites have been blocked in Sri Lanka’s latest crackdown on the media, editors said Wednesday.

The blocked access to www.srilankamirror.com and www.theindependent.lk was done without any court order and “without any legal basis,” Professional Web Journalists’ Association convener Freddy Gamage said

The actions bring to eight the number of blocked news websites in Sri Lanka, where press restrictions have been an international concern.

Gamage said both websites were popular and have been publishing impartial news and “this is a death blow to the media and as well as to the peoples’ right to information.”

Editor Kelum Shivantha of www.srilankamirror.com said Internet service providers told him the site was blocked on a directive by the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.

Editor Subash Jayawardena of www.theindependent.lk said news that criticized government affairs led to the blocking of his website.

TRC director general Anusha Palpita declined to comment.

In 2012, police raided and sealed off the Sri Lanka Mirror’s office and arrested nine workers and seized computers and documents.

Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema, president of Sri Lanka Journalists’ Trade Union, condemned the blocking and said “this is also a part of the suppression faced by the media in the country especially with the expansion of the new media. Now these threats seem to be increasing.”

In 2011, the government blocked five websites including strong government critic www.lankaenews.com and its top leaders. A columnist for the website suspected to have been abducted in 2010 is still missing, and the website’s office was set on fire earlier in 2011. The publication blamed the government for the attack, and Editor Sandaruwan Senadheera operates the site in exile.

Sri Lanka’s devastating, quarter-century civil war ended in 2009, but the government has faced international criticism for failing to properly investigate wartime human rights abuses and disappearances. It insists it’s done nothing wrong and the criticism is unjust interference.

Amnesty International says at least 14 Sri Lankan media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006, and other media groups say the government has failed to prosecute the killers.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Sri Lanka in the bottom tenth of its country-by-country report on press freedom in 2014.

Update hourly