Groundviews blocked in Sri Lanka (Updated)

Update, 7.40pm: As we note in our tweet, we wish the Sri Lankan government made up its mind! This site, Vikalpa and even Transparency International’s site are now unblocked on SLT ADSL. The technical information below still stands, and can in the event of any future block, be used to access site content easily.

###

Update, 12.10am, 22nd June: The following was sent out by email today to our local and international readership.

On 20th June, for a number of hours in Sri Lanka, Groundviews was completely inaccesible over Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) ADSL broadband connections. Since it began operations in 2006, this was the first time the site was completely inaccessible over an ISP in Sri Lanka.

Reader reports from across Sri Lanka confirmed the site could not be reached, as well as the fact that over ISPs like Dialog and Etisalat, the site continued to work fine. The founder and co-editor of Groundviews, in New York at the time, could also access the frontside and backend of the site without any problem or delay. Reader reports also indicated that our partner site Vikalpa and the website of Transparency International Sri Lanka were also inaccessible over SLT ADSL broadband connections at the same time Groundviews was blocked.

Worried Groundviews was the latest website in Sri Lanka to be subject to an arbitrary block, we immediately activated emergency protocols that included the activation of a mirror site on WordPress.com, alerting our readership through email, Twitter and Facebook of the site block and immediately switching our RSS feeds to a different network architecture that allowed the full content on the site, including comments, to be read even if the SLT ADSL block continued to be in place, and indeed, spread to other ISPs as well.

However, as suddenly and surprisingly as the block on Groundviews was imposed, it went away. Full site access was restored towards the end of the day, which we confirmed on our site and social network feeds. As we noted to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) who red-flagged our site block in a press release, it “could have been a dry run for future action, could have been someone who flipped a switch without being told to do so, could have been a signal to us to shut up.”

We received a vast number of emails, SMSs and calls supporting our work and our site. Thank you to everyone who responded so quickly and in solidarity. On the plus side, the temporary block provided us a good excuse to activate and test our emergency site access and content publication protocols, which were successful.

The site now operates as normal.

###

20th June 2011: A number of user reports from Sri Lanka indicate that Groundviews is now blocked on Sri Lanka Telecom ADSL broadband Internet connections. It also appears that Vikalpa, our partner site that publishes critical content in Sinhala, is also blocked. Further, the website of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) is also blocked.

  • Content and comments published on Groundviews continue to be accessible over RSS. For articles, please click here or copy and paste the following URL into your newsreader feed://feeds.feedburner.com/groundviews
  • For comments, please click here or copy and paste the following URL into your newsreader http://feeds.feedburner.com/GroundviewsComments

Note that the RSS feeds above feature the full article / content / comment, and not just an excerpt. You can use any RSS reader (details below) to read content on the site, even with SLT’s blocking.

Most modern browsers have an RSS reader built in (so you just have to click on the links above to read the content) or you can use the excellent and completely free Google News Reader, for which you only need a Google Account (like a Gmail account, and who doesn’t have one these days?). RSSOwl is a great desktop RSS reader for Windows. For Apple OS X, we absolutely love (and in fact, use in house) Reeder.

Users on Windows, Apple OS X or Linux are strongly encouraged to download and use the TOR Browser Bundle. Using Firefox, this will allow anyone in Sri Lanka, even on SLT ADSL, to access Groundviews, Vikalpa and any other site that is normally blocked on the ISP without resorting to any online proxy.

  • In the eventuality of a more permanent site block, all of our content will be mirrored on http://gvsrilanka.wordpress.com, which we had registered a while ago precisely because we thought the Sri Lankan government would block access to our site.
  • With over 8,600 fans to date, our Facebook page is another great way to engage with our content.
  • Our Twitter feed, followed by almost every major wire news service in the country and region, offers pointers and short takes on critical content on the web.

Our presence on WordPress.com, Facebook, Twitter and access to our content via RSS news feeds is unhindered, and technically, very difficult to block from within the country, unless one follows the example of Egypt earlier this year.

We remain committed to the production of content that has since 2006 engaged hundreds of thousands on our site, and read by millions. Over years, it’s our authors and readers who have defined the site far more than the content we ourselves have produced and published. In fact, few of them agree completely with the content on the site, or share our own perspectives on that which is published. We are constantly challenged, we have argued on principle, we have flagged key issues, others have shared alternative perspectives. All of us believe that to speak freely especially in a country that is post-war, yet still distant from a just peace, is vital to our democracy, our future. The discussion and debate on Groundviews is unique, and pegged from the get-go to a framework that encourages civil discourse, even on highly emotive and divisive issues. As of today, Groundviews featured 547 users, 58,329 comments and 3,872 posts, totalling over 7 million words of original content and debate.

This is a testimony to our site’s enduring appeal, and why we will not easily be silenced.

  • georgethebushpig

    Dear Groundviews,

    It was bound to happen wasn’t it? Good on you to have made alternative provisions. Keep up the good work!

    Me Kehliya (Rambukwella) unte wadi kal natana bari wenewa!

  • sabbe laban

    My regrets on that! On the other hand it shows that not only you can ban “free expression.” Your continuous support of the international campaign to crucify Sri Lanka may be the reason for the government to take this step. For example while it is true that you have published articles which show the point of view of both sides, the majority of the articles were intended to cast aspersions on Sri Lankan government and support those who are out to sink Sri Lanka in the war crimes probes!

    For example you can read the final comment under the debate:”A Robust Debate….” article, where you openly express your intention in rather un-ambiguous terms…..no?(and I have added my response to that too!)

    Obviously the government of Sri Lanka may be considering you guys as a threat to the national security, like Asange is considered by the US government! Make sure that you stay clear of women who could take you to courts on “molestation” charges as well!!!

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      LOL. Your last point is well taken, but it’s the charges from women and men we don’t in fact know and have never met that may be more challenging to counter! We are sure they can be animated on demand, just as much this site can be blocked on demand in the future. Important to laugh about all this we feel – that the rank fear of a small site like this is able to influence policy making right at the top. GV responsible for regime change? We emphatically think not. GV responsible for content and discussions that won’t be published anywhere else? We strongly believe so.

  • justitia

    Finally, the SLgovernment has decided that ‘enough is enough’.
    No totalitarian state will tolerate freedom of expression.
    The sycophants who thrive on the crumbs thrown to them will have a field day.
    The ‘isotopes’ of Goebbels of the Nazi Era will go to town.
    But in this internet age, nothing can be hidden.

  • http://malyaaya.blogspot.com Migara

    Is GV smoking something? I can see GV perfectly well with an ADSL/

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      Din’t you see the update to the article right on the top and the revised title?

      “Update, 7.40pm: As we note in our tweet, we wish the Sri Lankan government made up its mind! This site, Vikalpa and even Transparency International’s site are now unblocked on SLT ADSL. The technical information below still stands, and can in the even of any future block, be used to access site content easily.”

      Do try to read more carefully? There’s a good chap.

  • Bonchi Baba

    Did the government really take down GV or is it some ploy to discredit the government? no one will ever know…

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      Totally agree. If pressed, we’d say it was them Martians. Dodgy buggers.

      • Lakshan

        LOL :) yeah with green tails and all . Its like when they said Sirasa burnt itself down ( and god forbid , Lasantha killed himself)

  • Velu Balendran

    The governing politicos may feel that they have got things under control at least within SL by denying their citizens freedom of expression and access to contemporary trends and ideas. (May be Hu Jintao gave this tip to the prez when they were exchanging ideas recently). Little do they realise the adverse publicity they are generating by banning one of the best if not the best neutral, vibrant and sensitive web site on SL affairs. Alas, these are to be expected in a dictatorship. (Who said Sril Lanka is a practicing democracy?)

    The hole they are digging will only bury them one day. The sooner the better.

  • yapa

    If the actions are meant to influence society or a section of society or individuals, I think reactions always should be expected. If the actions claim it has a right in terms of “freedom of Expression” or on something like that the parties get affected also have right to protect their rights from the influences, the parties thinks unhealthy for its freedom of survival.

    When somebody creates a situation to come “Freedom of Expression” and “National Interest” head on no one can argue only the former one should be unaffected. If the collision path continues, it is reasonable former to be subjugated than the latter. One can choose its destiny, by its actions. Some may prefer disastrous reactions, as they can be transformed in the future for their advantage . A sponsorships have become blessing in disguise for many books, movies and news papers in the past, and some time has brought treasures to individuals. Therefore it could be a latent wish in their aspirations.

    However, nobody should only be governed by their own wishes and aspirations, independent of everything else. I should concern about the environment where it is in operation. It should have some respect to parameters such as legal framework, and social infrastructure within which it has to carry out its activities. None has freedom to do whatever they want to do in any society. Freedom comes from the responsibility. If the responsibility is neglected, freedom will also have to expect that it would be also be neglected.

    GV has its “free will” to choose its own path and destiny, I think. If a cell grows to become a cancer cell, I think it would be removed.

    Thanks!

  • yapa

    Correction….,

    A [sponsorships] have become blessing in disguise…

    [sponsorships] should change as “censorship”

    Thanks!

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      So let’s get this straight – we, Vikalpa and Transparency International want censorship, like censorship and wish it upon ourselves to inflate our bank accounts?! We didn’t expect much sense you, but this really is a new low even by your standards of imbecilic banality.

      • yapa

        Dear Groundviews;

        “So let’s get this straight – we, Vikalpa and Transparency International want censorship, like censorship and wish it upon ourselves to inflate our bank accounts?!”

        I didn’t really identify the intention, but I don’t anyway think it is something related to your bank accounts.

        Cheers! and Thanks!

  • Sohan Fernando

    Congrats to GV on being (even briefly) added to the blocked list :roll:
    (and Vikalpasl, TISL)

  • Sohan Fernando

    Was this only on SLT ADSL? Not any others such as Mobitel?

    • Groundviews

      It was only blocked on SLT ADSL. The site was accessible at the time on Dialog WIMAX, Mobitel and Etisalat.

      GV.

  • indonicus

    Didn’t some (useful) idiot here on GV say once that GV’s ability to function witout interruption in Sri Lanka was a sign that it was not a Fascist state (or something along those lines)?

    • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

      See, somebody is congratulating GV for being blocked. Didn’t I tell that it could be a blessing in disguise.

      Thanks!

  • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/ Mango

    This censorship really is pathetic and ultimately pointless. I’ve long suspected that adult supervision is lacking (unlike with the Boy Scouts) in certain aspects of GoSL policy and this is further proof.

  • ordinary lankan

    STAY ALIVE – BE SAFE

    BETTER TO LIVE

    100 YEARS

    Great that you have back ups organized….

  • Savitur

    [http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amarnath-amarasingam/sri-lanka-war_b_879038.html ]

    GoSL, I guess, unblocked it when it saw the Amjad Mohamed-Saleem’s article appearing on GV. And Amjad’s article sounds like Defence.lk’s limited version.

  • sabbe laban

    Groungviews

    “We didn’t expect much sense you, but this really is a new low even by your standards of imbecilic banality”

    How did you arrive at this? Is it by your “transparent wisdom”?

    • Groundviews

      Not really Sabbe, old boy. Perhaps we arrived at this conclusion from the insight gained after moderating Yapa’s comments for over a year.

      • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

        Dear Groundviews;

        You must be enlightened now,as a consequence.

        Thanks!

      • Groundviews

        After being exposed to your benighted opinions? Most certainly, Yapa.

        GV.

  • NP

    What was the status with your server, Groundviews?

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      Sorry NP – don’t quite understand. Your IP resolves to SLT’s broadband customer service – so where are you going with this?