S Lanka: ‘There cannot be freedom of the wild ass’
Colombo: Sri Lanka on Friday hit back at accusations of media stifling, saying it was not pursuing a policy of banning news websites but couldn't give them "freedom of the wild ass".
Acting Minister of Media, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene said today that all news websites have to register with the government and there could be no leniency on this rule.
He was responding to criticism by media watchdogs after a Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday rejected a fundamental rights petition in connection with the blocking of five websites.
"We have not blocked any website. We have only called on them to register with the ministry. This is only to make sure that people affected by reporting to have redress," Abeywardene said.
He said most websites were operating with no identification of their operators or owners.
Failure to register would result in blocking of the web access.
"If they can't register then there must be something to hide. We respect the freedom of media but cannot allow freedom of the wild ass," the acting minister quipped.
He said some 66 websites had been registered with the ministry of media since the order which called for their registration.
The media watchdog, Free Media Movement had filed a Supreme Court application that the government action to block some five websites had impinged on the freedom of expression and right to information.
The five websites came to blocked following a government directive in November last year that all news websites must register with the ministry of media and information.
The regulation was followed by another order which required mobile phone service companies to obtain prior approval of news stories with regard to national security.