Sri Lankan political voices on the Internet are now running on borrowed time.
I believe that the present administration will start ordering ISPs to block “undesirable” web addresses within the next year, now that India has set a precedent for the same. Free blogging services will most likely be targets. Based on the present administration’s behavior toward the press, satellite TV companies and more recently regular TV channels, the Internet seems to be the next logical target.
I believe in non-violent change. The only tool for non-violent change is freedom of speech. Once that tool is lost, all is lost — the public has been both physically and intellectually disarmed and tranquilized. This is step #2 towards totalitarianism:
Step #1: Private property ownership becomes conditional (the state can take away private property at arbitrary whim)
Step #2: Loss of freedom of speech (the state decrees that you have all the freedom of speech you want, so long as you do not publicize certain state-decided “bad things”)
Preservation of free speech should be the Sri Lankan Internet community’s number one priority in the coming months, since the loss of the tool itself is a far greater loss than ANYTHING that the tool may produce. Blogging is a medium hardly known to the Sri Lankan public — any attack on it will most likely generate NO controversy. It is up to the blogging community to defend its own medium. It needs to anticipate the coming action and act preemptively.
I’ve been told that a number of young Sri Lankan bloggers met recently to discuss “what can be done” about the present situation in the country. I would tell them that the first order of business is to not lose the tool. Write to traditional print media about blogging and it’s importance as a tool of free speech compared to other mass media. When one medium comes under attack, use the remaining media to defend it. In this case, Sinhalese print media is best (question: is blogging called “Web Lekhana Kalaawa” in Sinhalese?).
Censoring blogs is suppression of INDIVIDUAL voices — it is worse than any action against large scale media institutions. A blog is one of the most effective ways an individual citizen can make himself heard.
Internet freedom is preserved in the United States because of a powerful pro-freedom/anti-censorship lobby that galvanizes into action at the tiniest sign that the U.S. government is planning anything even remotely related to Internet censorship. The Sri Lankan Internet community now needs to be on a similar hair-trigger alert.