Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sri Lanka plans to amend press law to include websites



By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez | Reuters
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Sri Lanka will amend a decades-old media law in order to bring in all news websites and electronic media under regulation, the government said on Monday, a week after it raided and temporarily closed down two anti-government websites.

The amendments to the Press Council Law enacted in 1973 will allow the government to order websites and electronic media to follow media codes in addition to print media.

"We will bring amendments to the Press Council Law to include the electronic and web media to ensure accountability," Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told Reuters without elaborating.

Sri Lanka ended a nearly three-decade civil war with Tamil separatists in 2009 that saw censorship and restrictions on reporting, including banning the rebels' main website in 2008.

But since the war's end, the government has not eased press freedom, drawing criticism from the United States and European Union among others for arrests of journalists critical of the government.

In March, the government censored mobile news alerts about the military or police.

Sri Lankan media groups slammed the move to amend the press law.

"This is obviously to control the media," said Manik de Silva, a director of Sri Lanka's Press Complaint Commission and a member of the country's Editor's Guild.

"Any strengthening of media laws will be used to further the interest of political parties in power rather than the national interest."

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