*Date: *20 June 2007 9:30 AM
*To: *'free media movement' <[EMAIL PROTECTED] <mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]>>
*Subject: **FMM press release*

*Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka | Hotline +94 (0) 777289289*
* *
*Clamping down on the Internet: The ban on Tamilnet in Sri Lanka*
/20^th  June 2007, Colombo, Sri Lanka/:
The Free Media Movement is deeply disturbed to learn that Tamilnet 
-- www.tamilnet.com <http://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.
Sunanda Deshapriya
Free Media Movement
*for more information** - (+94) 777 
315665**  Spokesperson- S. Sivakumar 0777 315665*
Convenor -- Sunanda Deshapriya ( 0777 312457) -- Secretary 
-- Sunil Jayasekara ( 011 2851672/3)
No. 237/22, Wijeya Kumaratunga Road, Colombo - 05., Email : 
www.freemediasrilanka.org <http://www.freemediasrilanka.org/>

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