The government said today that laws with regard to the media would be amended making the registration of news websites compulsory by law.
Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told the weekly cabinet news conference that media freedom in Sri Lanka was not under threat. “Free media is not under threat. All we want is to ensure the right of reply for people who may be maliciously targeted by certain sections of the media. It is with this in mind that we directed all news websites be registered,” he said.
When the Daily Mirror pointed out that the reason for the local and international uproar against the raid on two local websites was because of the breakdown in the law and order situation in the country and that registration can be construed as implied intimidation, the minister responded by saying it was not so.
“As Media Minister I am responsible to the people of this country and many sites have used the slogan ‘free media’ to maliciously slander people. We cannot let that happen. I can’t give answers based on speculations over intimidation because then I will also be giving speculative answers,” he said.
When the Daily Mirror pointed out instances of harassment and threat including the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga, the minister said the government was keen to find the culprits. “The judicial process is taking its course and suspects arrested. We can’t solve crime overnight and if anyone has any information regarding these crimes we invite them to come forward and tell us,” he said.
The minister said several allegations had been made against the two websites which were raided.
“I’m not in a position to divulge information right now but there have been various allegations against these websites,” he said. (Hafeel Farisz & Anarkalee Perera)