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Sri Lanka orders news websites to register

The Sri Lankan Government has urged all news websites to register with the media ministry, in a move widely seen as an attempt to further restrict the freedom of the press on the island.

"This ministry believes that those who are operating and maintaining these clandestine websites have been doing so to discredit the government, the head of state," the ministry said in a statement.

"Such slanderous publications should not only be discouraged but also acts of this nature would have to be effectively prevented in the interest of the general public."

Last month, anti-government website Lanka-e-news was blocked in Sri Lanka, after it carried articles critical of President Rajapakse.

The US condemned the ban of the website by the government.

"The United States believes that a free and independent media is vital to ensuring the health and continuation of any democracy. Freedom of expression, including unfettered access to internet news websites, is a basic right which must be respected," it said in a statement.

"We therefore call on the Sri Lankan authorities and the management of Sri Lankan telecommunications firms to stop activities aimed at blocking free access in Sri Lanka to all legitimate media websites, including Lanka-e-News."

Sri Lanka has seen many attacks on journalists and media institutions this year, including the attack on the editor of the Tamil Uthayan paper in Jaffna.

"I don't see any necessity for registering. There is enough room under the normal law to prevent obscene and unethical publications," Kusal Perera, a government critic and director of the Center for Social Democracy, told Reuters.

"This is just to hunt down the dissent."

See previous articles:

US ‘deeply concerned’ over Lanka’s media freedom (01 Nov 2011)

Sunday Leader editor threatened by ‘Sinha Regiment’ (03 Nov 2011)

When Dutugemunu met the Queen... (02 Nov 2011)

Status: Not Free (19 Oct 2011)