Response to the misplaced grievences of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence

20th May 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence in response to our Press Release of 17th May 2008 on the alleged hacking of the Lanka Dissent website in Sri Lanka “categorically states that it does not have any unit engaged in the work of experimenting with or carrying out any studies on how to disrupt websites, or engaged in any form of disrupting websites, whether staffed by electronic and IT experts or not, and that it is not doing so in the said location or any other location in Sri Lanka or elsewhere.”

The FMM unreservedly welcomes this categorical denial.

Curiously though, the MoD’s response also takes issue with our statement for publishing an excerpt from the open letter Lanka Dissent sent us alleging the existence of an electronic media observation unit under the MoD. The MoD states that “it is regretted that [the FMM] has thought fit to publicize this totally false allegation through its own statement to the media, without verification of this matter from this Ministry.” Calling for us to withdraw our statement the MoD finally notes, “In the absence of such a remedial measure for the harm caused to the image and reputation of this Ministry, it will be necessary to seek legal recourse in this regard.”

The FMM finds no reason to withdraw its statement because we explicitly asked the MoD to clarify the allegations made by Lanka Dissent against it. We pointed that in a context where there is an indubitable block against met with vehement denial from the regime and where independent media personnel face unprecedented physical and verbal violence, allegations such as those made by Lanka Dissent needed to be taken seriously. We noted quite clearly in our statement that,

“The FMM urges the authorities to immediately clarify the existence and nature of the electronic media-monitoring unit by the Ministry of Defence as noted by Lanka Dissent.”

The MoD’s deliberately partial reading of our statement and its expression of spurious grievances is indicative of a regime does not even tolerate attempts to clarify allegations made against it.

Our larger concerns about media freedom in Sri Lanka stand, as well as significant disquiet on the well documented hate speech repeatedly and blatantly promoted by the MoD against independent investigative reporting in Sri Lanka.