A fax issued by the Media Centre for National Security today commands that “any news related to National Security and Security Force, the Police should get prior approval from the Media Centre for National Security before dissemination. Therefore, please be kind enough to follow the above instructions with immediate effect.” See large image of the fax sent to media institutions here.

Groundviews was told that these measures were most likely taken after SMS news updates on the recent killing of two soldiers in Jaffna, by another soldier. Among other SMS news alerts, Daily Mirror’s SMS alerts covered the story in three updates, also reflected in their Twitter feed.

The first update was at 8.16am, followed by two more at 8.46am (via a Daily Mirror journalist’s iPhone) and 9.19am.

The new MCNS directive for SMS news services smacks of its censorious regulations from 2006, which to the best of our knowledge, even post-war, have not been officially rescinded. The 2006 regulations noted,

“Any news gathered by your institution through your own sources with regard to national security and defense should be subjected to clarification and confirmation from the MCNS in order to ensure that correct information is published, telecast or broadcast”

Even though the LLRC’s Final Report unequivocally stressed, in its recommendations, the importance of media freedom for reconciliation in Sri Lanka and condemned violence against journalists including during its public hearings in the North of Sri Lanka, it is clear that the government’s censorious attitudes prevail. The tragedy is that what was outrageous in 2006, is downright silly today. Take the Daily Mirror SMS updates. Do the MCNS directives also extend to tweets from Daily Mirror and other SMS news providers, which often mirror the content sent out via SMS? Does the MCNS directive apply to consumers as well, who can choose to SMS others based on what they consume, leading to the viral spread of news that the MCNS would like to otherwise contain and control? What legal authority does the MCNS have over SMS news providers, and what punitive measures can it take against those who don’t supinely comply? How does the MCNS directive apply to consumers who have chosen to be alerted via SMS of tweets from certain Twitter accounts (a feature of Twitter.com) – which is then essentially an SMS update generated, however, by a news update that by-passes the traditional SMS delivery? Do the boffins at MCNS even realise how outmoded, and out-dated their censorious thinking is, and how ridiculous they look in still attempting to control information that can no longer be censored by mere fax or threat?