(published under right to reply policy of FMM. FMM response will be posted later)
The attention of the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, has been drawn to a statement issued by the Free Media Movement (FMM) dated 17 May 2008, and published in the media on May 19, 2008, which makes a serious allegation against this Ministry.
Quoting a news item posted on the web site – www.lankadisent/allnews/2008 – and referring to a letter that the FMM had received from the Editor of “Lanka Dissent, the FMM repeats a totally false allegation made by “Lanka Dissent” to the effect that this Ministry has recently set up a unit to monitor web sites and that this unit, staffed with electronic and IT experts, is experimenting on how to disrupt websites.
This is how the FMM has repeated the allegation initially made by Lanka Dissent:
“The Defence Ministry recently set up an electronic media observation unit at a building adjacent to Standard Chartered Bank in front of the President’s House in Colombo to monitor websites reporting on the situation in Sri Lanka. LD learns through reliable sources that this particular unit staffed with electronic and IT experts, is experimenting on how to disrupt websites.”
The Ministry of Defence 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.
Although the FMM states that “while the specific points in the Lanka Dissent letter are open to debate”, it is regretted that it has thought fit to publicize this totally false allegation through its own statement to the media, without verification of this matter from this Ministry. It is equally regrettable that media institutions have also given wide publicity to this totally false allegation, without observing the journalistic duty of prior verification.
The initial false report by Lanka Dissent, and the added publicity to it, both locally and abroad, through the FMM statement, underlines the concerns of this Ministry that such reports are intended to discredit the Government of Sri Lanka and tarnish the image of this country abroad on a subject that is at present attracting considerable attention among activists for Human Rights and Media freedom.
In view of the above, we request that both the Free Media Movement and Lanka Dissent issue statements withdrawing the said allegation about this Ministry being in any manner engaged in work to disrupt websites through hacking or any other means, and also call on the media institutions that gave publicity to the statement of the FMM based on a false and unverified report, to also give similar publicity to this statement as the original offending reports.
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.