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Sri Lanka backtracks on website registration demands

March 3, 2016

Sri Lanka rowed back on a decision to force all websites to register with the government on Thursday, a day after the announcement triggered claims of a return to media censorship.

The government, which came to power last year promising to end censorship, had said it would make it mandatory for websites to register and threatened any that failed to do so with prosecution.

Sri Lankan media reacted angrily to the move, saying it appeared aimed at intimidating anti-government sites by forcing them to disclose details of news contributors.

“We have not taken a final decision,” Parliamentary Reforms and Media Minister Gayantha Karunaratne told reporters on Thursday.

“We will have discussions with all stakeholders and work out a new system. The intention is not to censor websites.”

The government of President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January promising to ensure media freedom, and quickly lifted bans on several pro-opposition websites.

Under the 10-year regime of former president Mahinda Rajapakse, local Internet service providers were ordered to block access to anti-government sites.

Over a dozen Sri Lankan journalists and media employees were killed and radio and television stations were bombed.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.