Website previously blocked now permitted to operate by SC

Friday, 16 December 2011 01:38 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By S.S. Selvanayagam

The Srilankamirror website, which had its access blocked, was yesterday (15) granted permission to operate forthwith in terms of settlement reached by both parties.

In view of the settlement, the fundamental rights petition filed by its proprietor cum editor Kelum Shivantha Rodrigo was terminated by the Supreme Court.

The Bench comprised Justices P.A. Ratnayake, Chandra Ekanayake and Priyasath Dep.

Petitioner cited Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC), its Director General Anusha Palpita, Director General of Government Information, Secretary to the Ministry of Media, Attorney General and six others as Respondents.

Saliya Peiris instructed by Paul Ratnayake Associates appeared for the Petitioner. M.U.M. Ali Sabry appeared for the TRC, Kalinga Indatissa appeared for its Director General, Deputy Solicitor General Shavindra Fernando with Senior State Counsel M. Gopallawa appeared for the Director General of Information, Ministry Secretary and the Attorney General. D.S. Wijesinghe PC appeared for the other Respondents.

Preconditions for lifting the temporary access control are as follows:

As per the direction by the Supreme Court to the TRC to conduct an inquiry into the ownership of the website to ascertain the possibility of lifting the temporary suspension and upon the inquiry being held, it is agreed that the access control imposed on the website will be lifted on the following conditions:

(a) that the website is registered as a news casting website with the Ministry of Media and the TRC;

(b) that the ownership of the website with sufficient proof of domain name ownership, webhost and server details and their location;

(c) an undertaking that will carrying out the news casting according to the existing ethics followed and maintained by electronic media and other media institutions;

(d) blocked by an order of a Court;

(e) illegal phonographic and obscene websites;

(f) news casting website primarily directed at both local and Sri Lankans living abroad which is not registered with the Ministry of Media;

(g) the website has presently delinked the four websites presently blocked by the TRC that the Petitioner categorically states that in any event up to now the website has not provided any links to illegal phonographic or obscene websites or those blocked by an order of Court;

(h) the Ministry of Media will provide the owner of the a list of such other websites which it requires to delink which belong to (a) to (g) above websites in the event of such list being provided the delinking will be done within 48 hours of the receipt of such list;

(i) Accordingly the blocking of the website will be lifted forthwith.

Petitioner in his petition stated his fundamental rights of though, conscience and religion guaranteed under Article 10 of the Constitution have been infringed by one or more or all of the 1st to 4th Respondents since the blocking of the access to his website has prevented his thoughts, ideas and opinion being reached to the outside world.

He said his fundamental right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law guaranteed under Article 12(1) has been infringed by the Respondents.

Since the blocking of the access to his website has been done in the absence of provisions of the TRC Act as amended, enabling the 1st Respondent to block the access to a website and due to the failure of the rights to communicate to the Petitioner, the reasons for the blocking of access to his website and also due to the failure of the Respondents to observe the principles of natural justice.

Petitioner bemoaned his fundamental right of the freedom of speech and expression including publication guaranteed under Article 14(1)(a) of the Constitution has been infringed by one or more or all of the 1st to 4th Respondents since the blocking of access in Sri Lanka to the aforesaid website was effected without lawful reason and on false pretexts.

He lamented his right to the freedom to engage by himself or in association with others in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise guaranteed under Article 14(1)(g) of the Constitution has been infringed by the Respondents.