Dissident opinion and pornography on the internet are not the same things usually. But in Sri Lanka both are likely to get the same treatment – blocked by the government’s caring hands.
For much of the war with the LTTE, the authorities here had banned any dissident or pro-LTTE opinion on the internet. Now they have turned their powers to proscribe to sites on the net with pornographic content. For starters, 12 sites have been logged out. (It’s of course a separate issue that all these sites could be accessed by proxy servers.
But that’s not all. In the past couple of weeks, Sri Lanka – showered with influences and not always of religious nature -- from the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British for centuries has been preparing to censor movies and advertisements and ban mobile phones from schools.
Cultural Affairs Ministry secretary, GLW Samarasinghe, was quoted as saying these measures were being adapted to "improve culture."
Samarasinghe said laws would be introduced soon to allow the Public Performances Board to censor films, advertisements and other media material with sex, alcohol or drug content.
These moves are part of the Mahinda Chinthana, with its noble promises to make Sri Lanka free of alcohol, tobacco and drugs by 2015.
But before the legislation, protests have begun. One newspaper published a cartoon with the chest of a Sigirya fresco – some which are of heavenly ladies without much care in the world – covered with word ``censored.’’
Film directors and actors scoffed, calling the move to censor ``ridiculous’’ and that there should be discussions before such moves were initiated.
Few disagree against the move to ban cell phones in schools. Complaints have been received where camera-phones were used to take inappropriate photos or store pornography. Maybe, it is also alright to ask internet café owners to register as security is still a serious issue in a country which has only begun to come of a 26-year-old war.
But a patronising attitude towards choices that adults make is sure to raise more hackles. Director Prasanna Vithanage used the word `Taliban’ to describe the move censor movies.
Will the government next decide to shut down all the casinos and night clubs and hostess bars in Colombo for infecting its evidently brittle cultural fabric? Enough to make Savitha*bhabhi* frown.