Reports online suggest that Dialog Axiata and Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), inter alia, are blocking access to a number of Tamil language websites reporting on Sri Lanka. In the morning we were asked whether we could access

We tested on SLT ADSL, Dialog HSDPA and via an Etisalat dongle. Only Etisalat loaded the page.

Given the blocks we suggested consumers in Sri Lanka use TOR to access the blocked pages using any ISP.

One reason, unverified, seems to be a protest by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) against land grabs by the Sri Lankan government. Earlier peaceful protests had been violently suppressed, as was noted in Parliament by the TNA, but the issues has gone under-reported in the mainstream English media, and unreported in the mainstream Sinhala media.

It is unclear whether the websites were also blocked in advance of today’s protest, which ended peacefully,

As Niran Anketell noted on Twitter,

Disturbingly, by day’s end, the web censorship had ostensibly got worse. As noted on Twitter,

When asked if the sites were accessible recently and through which ISP, Guruparan noted,

Groundviews is able to confirm that these sites are inaccessible over Dialog Axiata and SLT’s ADSL connections, but remain available over Etisalat, and of course, using TOR.

Web censorship in Sri Lanka: Documenting a growing trend by Groundviews links to a Bundlr curation that has for months meticulously logged Sri Lanka’s web censorship and erosion of the Freedom of Expression online. In May 2012, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ),

Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court slammed the door on a case about the shutdown of four websites that had failed to register with the government. In handing down its decision, the Court appeared to rule that freedom of expression in Sri Lanka is not an absolute right and can be restricted–and you don’t need to pass a law to do so. The three-judge panel told the petitioners who brought the case–Sunil Jayasekara, convener of the Free Media Movement, and Udaya Kalupathirana, a member of the movement’s executive committee–that they saw no reason for the court to hear any further arguments.

In 2011, Jayasekara and Kalupathirana brought the suit on behalf of themselves, the Free Media Movement, and the general public, after five opposition websites were blocked by the government. The five websites cited in the petition are Srilankamirror, Sri Lanka Guardian, Lanka Way News, Lanka News Web, and Paparasi News. One, Srilankamirror, registered after the petition was filed.

Today’s spate of arbitrary blocks on Tamil language sites reporting on issues and events of deep significance that mainstream media are unable or unwilling to report on is an ominous sign that censorship in general, and web censorship in particular, is alive and growing in post-war Sri Lanka.