Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sri Lankan media groups to challenge new restrictions

Media groups in Sri Lanka, already restricted from covering the war against Tamil rebels in the north, are bracing to challenge new regulations that seek to control television broadcasting and new media, Inter Press Service reports. The new rules, announced on 27 October, control content not only for broadcast but also MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) on mobile phones. Newspapers reported government plans to bring in similar rules for radio broadcasting.

"Censorship, there is no doubt about it," said Sunanda Deshapriya, spokesman for Sri Lanka's Free Media Movement (FMM), an association representing journalists, publishers and private broadcasters. He said media groups and civil society organisations plan to challenge the regulations in the Supreme Court before 10 November, the deadline for objections before the regulations take effect.

The new regulations provide the Media Minister with powers to cancel licences if content is "detrimental to the interests of national security; incites a breakdown of public order; incites ethnic, religious or cultural hatred; is morally offensive or indecent; is detrimental to the rights and privileges of children", among other restrictions.

The government has defended the new regulations. The Media Minister, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, said they were needed to bring about uniformity in the fast-growing electronic media broadcasting field.

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