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Home  >Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka >Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists  Sri Lanka blocks TamilNet

Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists

Sri Lanka blocks TamilNet
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 15:32 GMT]

'..States that want to oppress a people do so by breaking their political will to resist injustice... It is easier to enslave a people who have lost their ability to understand the nature of their oppression..'  D. Sivaram, Founding Editor of Tamilnet, memorial speech for  Slain Batticaloa journalist Aiyathurai Nadesan, 7 August 2004

Comment by tamilnation.org
Sri Lanka blocking TamilNet, deeply disturbing says Free Media Movement
Government denies any knowledge of the site having been blocked - reports BBC
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Colombo for blocking access
Sri Lanka seeks hackers to down pro-Tiger website - reports AFP
Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Sri Lanka government to restore domestic access to the TamilNet Web site
Tamilnet banned? - How to continue to access the site from Sri Lanka

TamilNet has completed 10th year of its web publication on 7th June 2007. TamilNet is a globally based news agency, run by an independent group of persons, to cover news and views related especially to the North and East of Sri Lanka. TamilNet has earned its credibility for news reporting and has become an indispensable news source to opinion makers worldwide. Not surprisingly, the Government of Sri Lanka has thought of rewarding the TamilNet on its 10th anniversary by clandestinely blocking it to the public of Sri Lanka.

Readers from Sri Lanka have informed TamilNet that local internet service providers have indicated that the access block was implemented by directives from "higher authorities."

Even though the Sri Lankan state has a history behind it for silencing the voice of the Tamil public from the time it burnt down the Eezhanaadu newspaper office in 1981 in Jaffna, this is the first time, after the advent of Internet, it has moved to block access to a transnational website such as TamilNet.

With this unprecedented move, Colombo has denied the public of Sri Lanka access to independent NorthEast news, development related views and diaspora opinion on Tamil affairs which are otherwise not covered by the local media.

The de facto climate of self-censorship that has already plagued local media in Sri Lanka has now culminated in the infringement of the freedom of  the global media. The timing of the act, strangely coincides with the scheduled visit of the representatives of Reporters sans fronti�res (RSF) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to Jaffna.

Sri Lanka is plunging into undeclared military dictatorship and shameless ethnic cleansing, with open preparedness to challenge all norms of the International Community. The TamilNet wishes to place the issue before the conscience of the Global Community and to all those proclaimed guardians of Democracy, Human Rights and Freedom of Expression.

Comment by tamilnation.org Whilst TamilNet's  appeal to the 'norms of the international community' may be understandable (in terms of the 'Black Pebbles, White Pebbles' approach), we may also need to recognise that in practise, the international community's recognition of these 'norms' has always been selective and driven by its own strategic interests, whether it was in the case of Pinochet of Chile, the Shah of Iran, or Guantanamo Bay or the Shock and Awe of Iraq. We may also want to pay attention to the words of Robert Parry  that 'the notion of a 'liberal' national news media is one of the most enduring and influential political myths ...'.

Said that, TamilNet is right to place 'the issue before the conscience of the Global Community and to all those proclaimed guardians of Democracy, Human Rights and Freedom of Expression'  but we should not be surprised if the response of the 'proclaimed guardians of Democracy, Human Rights and Freedom of Expression' in so far as they are governments will be directed by the strategic interests of the concerned governments in relation to the uneasy power balance in the Indian Ocean region. And the same will be true of responses by government funded NGO's, whether that funding is direct or indirect.  Here, the analysis by Edward S. Herman, David Peterson and George Szamuely (on 25 February 2007) titled Human Rights Watch in Service to the War Party is educative. We may want to remind ourselves, yet again, of the words of the Leader of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Pirabakaran in 1993 -

"We are fully aware that the world is not rotating on the axis of human justice. Every country in this world advances its own interests. Economic and trade interests determine the order of the present world, not the moral law of justice nor the rights of people. International relations and diplomacy between countries are determined by such interests. Therefore we cannot expect an immediate recognition of the moral legitimacy of our cause by the international community... In reality, the success of our struggle depends on us, not on the world. Our success depends on our own efforts, on our own strength, on our own determination."

It seems that the actions of the Sri Lanka government (and the 'international community') are directed to prove that Velupillai Pirabakaran was right.

Sri Lanka blocking access to TamilNet, deeply disturbing says Free Media Movement
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 11:40 GMT]

Text of Press Statement by the Free Media Movement - Sunanda Deshapriya
Convenor, Free Media Movement

"The Free Media Movement is deeply disturbed to learn that Tamilnet - www.tamilnet.com - a web based Tamil news website, is now being blocked by all major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Sri Lanka on the orders of the government.

This is a significant turn in the erosion of media freedom in Sri Lanka and clearly demonstrates the extent to which media is censored and the free flow of information curtailed, without any accountability, transparency or judicial oversight. Tamilnet is one of most widely visited and well-known news websites in Sri Lanka. Hosted abroad, the website is frequented by journalists from all ethnicities, civil society and the donor and diplomatic community as well as the diaspora for situation updates, analysis and feature articles. Popularised from relative obscurity by the late Tamil journalist Sivaram Dharmaratnam, who up until his murder in April 2005 was its Editor. Though widely considered to be biased towards the LTTE, Tamilnet offers alternative perspectives, insight and information not often featured on other websites and in mainstream print & electronic media in Sri Lanka.

The ban on Tamilnet is the first instance of what the FMM believes may soon be a slippery slope of web & Internet censorship in Sri Lanka. It is also a regrettable yet revealing extension of this Government's threats against and coercion of print and electronic media in Sri Lanka since assuming office in late 2005. The ban damningly occurs at a time when an International Mission on Press Freedom and the Freedom of Expression is in Sri Lanka to ascertain and alert stakeholders to the chilling decline in media freedom, violence against journalists and an unbridled culture of impunity.

The FMM stresses that the danger of censoring the web & Internet is that it gives a Government and State agencies with no demonstrable track record of protecting & strengthening human rights and media freedom flimsy grounds to violate privacy, curtail the free flow of information and restrict freedom of expression - thus adding a heavy price in terms of diminished civil liberties to the high toll exacted by terrorism itself. The action by the Sri Lankan Government also contravenes established best practices in the free flow of information on the Internet and internationally recognised principles of the Freedom of Expression on the web. In particular, the ban goes against the declaration by Reporters Without Borders and the OSCE on Freedom of the Media in 2005 that states, inter alia;

#2. In a democratic and open society it is up to the citizens to decide what they wish to access and view on the Internet. Filtering or rating of online content by governments is unacceptable... Any policy of filtering, be it at a national or local level, conflicts with the principle of free flow of information.

#4. ... A decision on whether a website is legal or illegal can only be taken by a judge, not by a service provider. Such proceedings should guarantee transparency, accountability and the right to appeal.

Blocking access to media and restricting information are characteristic of the reprehensible strategies adopted by terrorists. The FMM is gravely concerned that the Sri Lankan government, in adopting the same tactics and strategies, severely undermines media freedom and the freedom of expression and calls upon it and relevant State authorities to immediately rescind the orders to block the access to Tamilnet."

Government denies any knowledge of the site having been blocked  Reports BBC, 20 June 2007

A popular pro-Tamil Tiger website says it has been blocked in Sri Lanka. Reports from Colombo say the TamilNet website, which is regularly checked by diplomats and journalists, can no longer be accessed. It is not clear who has blocked it or why, but the website, and independent media campaigners, said the government was to blame.

Government Information Director Anusha Pelpita denied any knowledge of the site having been blocked. TamilNet is a popular source of information for the substantial Tamil diaspora thousands of miles away in Europe and North America. Attempts to access the site in Sri Lanka have mostly thrown up error reports.

The media rights group Free Media Movement said all major internet service providers had blocked the site on government orders, the Associated Press reported.

"This is a significant turn in the erosion of media freedom in Sri Lanka and clearly demonstrates the extent to which media is censored and the free flow of information curtailed, without any accountability, transparency or judicial oversight," the group said in a statement.

"The ban on TamilNet is the first instance of what the Free Media Movement believes may soon be a slippery slope of web and internet censorship in Sri Lanka," it said.
Reporters without borders (RSF) condemns Colombo for blocking access to TamilNet
[TamilNet, Thursday, 21 June 2007, 02:34 GMT]

The full text of the press release:

Government censors Tamilnet by blocking access to website

Reporters Without Borders today condemned government censorship of the English-language news website Tamilnet. Sri Lanka's Internet Service Providers have been blocking access to the website on the government's orders since 15 June.

"Tamilnet is a source of news and information that is known throughout the world and for the past 10 years its coverage of Sri Lanka's civil war has proved essential," the press freedom organisation said. "The government must put a stop to this censorship and restore access to the site at once."

The blockage came just days after the 10th anniversary of Tamilnet's creation on 7 June, and coincided with the arrival of a delegation of international press freedom organisations, including Reporters Without Borders, to look into the sharp decline in media freedom in Sri Lanka.

Created in London by members of the Tamil expatriate community, Tamilnet devotes much of its efforts covering the civil war between the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam separatists (LTTE) and paramilitaries. The site has often been accused of supporting Tamil nationalists.
Its editor, Sivaram Dharmaratnam, was murdered on 28 April 2005.

Sri Lanka seeks hackers to down pro-Tiger website reports AFP, 20 June 2007

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's government said it would like to hire hackers to dismantle a pro-Tamil Tiger website, as media groups said access to the site was already blocked. Tamilnet.com has been blocked for several days on the "advice" of the government, local rights group the Free Media Movement (FMM) said. A Sri Lanka Telecom official confirmed the site was being filtered.

When asked about the decision, the government's spokesman insisted he was unaware of the measure -- but said authorities should expand their arsenal in the long-running ethnic conflict.

"I do not know, but I would love to hire some hackers," Keheliya Rambukwella said, while adding that he had no access to people who could do the job.

London-based Tamilnet.com, which publishes news and opinion about the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, confirmed its site was blocked by Sri Lanka Telecom -- the war-torn country's main Internet service provider.

"The de facto climate of self-censorship that has already plagued local media in Sri Lanka has now culminated in mischievous infringement into the freedom of global media," Tamilnet.com said.

The government owns just under 50 percent of Sri Lanka Telecom, which is run by NTT of Japan. The Sri Lanka-based FMM said it was "deeply disturbed" over what it said was yet another attack on media freedom. "This is a significant turn in the erosion of media freedom in Sri Lanka and clearly demonstrates the extent to which media is censored," the media group said in a statement.

Some Internet service providers, who have their main offices abroad, still allow access to the website, which is an influential source of Tamil views on the island's separatist conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives in 35 years.

The censorship move also coincides with a visit to Sri Lanka by a group of international media rights activists investigating widespread reports of increased attacks on and intimidation of the local media.

Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Sri Lanka government to restore domestic access to the TamilNet Web site

New York, June 20, 2007�The Sri Lankan government should restore domestic access to the TamilNet Web site, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The Free Media Movement, a Colombo-based press freedom group, and news outlets reported Tuesday that Internet service providers had blocked access to the site on government orders.

TamilNet, which openly supports Tamil rebels fighting a secessionist war, is widely read by Tamils in Sri Lanka and around the world. Despite its partisan nature, it is also used by diplomats and non-governmental organizations to learn of conditions in Tamil-controlled areas that are not open to other journalists.

�We call on the government to rescind its decision. All journalists in Sri Lanka must be allowed to carry out their work,� said Joel Simon, CPJ�s executive director.
Clashes, air strikes, and assassinations have killed 5,000 people over the past 19 months in Sri Lanka, according to The Associated Press. More than 70,000 people have died since the secessionist conflict began in 1983.


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