Sri Lanka blocks SMS on Independence Day

From an AFP news report:

“…..Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s telecom networks blocked text messaging on mobile phones as part of security measures for the national celebrations marking 60 years of independence from Britain, the phone operators said.

The main mobile service provider Dialog, in a message to its subscribers, said SMS (short message services) would not be available from 6.00 a.m. to noon, the duration of independence day festivities.

“We regret to inform subscribers that SMS services of all mobile operators will not be available…,” said the company, a unit of Malaysian Telekom.

Officials said Sri Lanka’s telecom regulator had ordered the suspension of SMS messages, fearing Tamil Tiger rebels could use them to scare people into staying away from celebrations.

Security has been raised to unprecedented levels across the country after a suicide bombing at the main railway station in the capital Colombo killed at least 12 people and injured more than 100.”

Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, Executive Director of the highly respected and well known telecoms policy think tank Lirneasia had this to say about this most recent act of mindless censorship by the Rajapakse administration:

The lack of strong opposition to their censorious actions has now led the government to take another step: to shut down SMS use on Independence morning. Censorship is coming close to home.

Mobile or fixed phones (the million plus CDMA phones can also for this while people are moving around) can be used to convey messages and coordinate actions. So can SMS. If the government believes that SMS poses a security threat, it should come out and tell us exactly what that threat is, before shutting down a service we have paid for and are entitled to use.

The Telecommunications Act lays down specific provisions for these kinds of actions. I want to know whether these lawful provisions were followed. Were these provisions followed when the phone networks were shut down for long periods in the North and the East?

If not, the actions taken last night to shut down SMS were unlawful. The shutting down of the phone networks in the North and East were illegal. I believe that it is necessary to protest these unlawful and arbitrary actions if we are to prevent the extension of the Great Firewall to this country as well. Otherwise we will not end up like China; our fate will be that of Burma.

One Response

  1. […] edict from the Government curtailing communications came on our “independence day” when SMS communications were shut off. As Rohan Samarajiva from Lirneasia notes: The lack of strong opposition to their censorious […]

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