COLOMBO: Civil society groups in Sri Lanka have expressed concern over the government's decision to block a website and called for its immediate unblocking, saying the move mirrors the tactics adopted by the previous Rajapaksa regime to quell "dissent".
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and Transparency International of Sri Lanka (TISL) noted with concern the inaccessibility of online news website Lanka E News from within Sri Lanka since November 8.
The website was reportedly blocked a day after it published an "expose" alleging corruption within the office of President Maithripala Sirisena in the procurement of state vehicles.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) had ordered internet service providers "to block Lanka E News", the two organisations alleged.
"The recent action and statements by government officials and ministers constitute a direct and real threat to the open questioning of political leadership and official policies, the very foundation of good governance.
"The renewed extra-judicial blocking of websites sadly mirrors the awful tactics adopted by the Rajapaksa regime to quell dissent and suppress inconvenient truths," the CPA said in a statement.
"Domestic and international media watchdogs at the time regularly flagged online censorship as a means through which the Rajapaksa regime controlled the flow of news and information, in addition to other more violent means," the not-for-profit policy, research and advocacy organisation said.
The TISL, the national chapter of Transparency International (TI), a global movement against corruption, said it was "deeply concerned" by the blocking of the website purportedly by TRCSL.
"The TISL calls on the TRCSL and the government to immediately provide clarity on the arbitrary blocking of the Lanka E News website and the legal provisions under which such a step has been taken," it said.