Taking a leaf from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s draconian media policy, the Yahapalanaya government has ordered all news website operating in Sri Lanka to register with the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media before March 31, 2016, and warned that any website that fails to register will be considered ‘unlawful.’
The application form available on the ministry website has requested for details of the owners, administrator, and journalists serving for the website, as well as details from where the content is uploaded.
The move comes just weeks after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe launched a scathing attack on several newspapers and television stations, accusing them of towing a pro-Rajapaksa line and also lashing out at newspapers for writing critical articles about him (Wickremesinghe).
The Yahapalanaya government which pledged media freedom when it came to power has however not delivered their promise with even ministers such as Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella going to the extent of abusing a journalist this week using filth after letters were leaked where it showed the minister was ordering universities to hire his supporters and acquaintances.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Parliament Reforms & Mass Media Karunarathna Paranawithana in a tweet claimed that the call to register news websites has been given a wrong interpretation and denied it was a move to monitor or censor websites.
During the Rajapaksa regime, several anti-Rajapaksa websites were raided, and attacked after they were asked to register with the government.
Following the raid in 2012, UNP Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera in his capacity as the head of the UNP Communications Division filed a fundamental rights case against the CID raid on the Lanka X News website, which was the official website of the UNP’s Communications Division. ( By Munza Mushtaq © Colombo Telegraph)