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Internet access and 8,000 telephone lines blocked in Jaffna Peninsula

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is an FMM press release:

Internet facilities and 8,000 telephones cut off in Jaffna Peninsula

The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply disturbed to learn that basic communications facilities to the Jaffna Peninsula have been blocked since 28 January 2007. Internet facilities and approximately 8,000 landline telephones of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) are currently dysfunctional. SLT, jointly owned by the Sri Lankan government and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation (NTT) of Japan, is the sole Internet provider in Jaffna Peninsula with a population of approximately 600,000, according to official statistics.

The FMM was told that there has been no official decision by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority to block communications in this manner in the Peninsula. However, a number of citizens and journalists in Jaffna, when contacted through mobile phones, confirmed that there has been no Internet access in Jaffna since 28 January. The SLT Jaffna office told FMM that for security reasons the SLT link to Jaffna had been disconnected from Anuradhapura, a north central city.

Two Tamil newspapers, "Sudaroli" and "Thinankkural", told FMM that they have been unable to send or receive news or photos via email to other newspapers in their media group since 28 January. Freelance and independent journalists based in Jaffna also cannot send any photos by email nor access the Internet.

FMM notes that the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas through any medium, regardless of frontiers, is enshrined as a fundamental right in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also note that given the context of uncertainty and fear, access to and the dissemination of accurate information through the media is of paramount importance in securing human rights and human security in the Peninsula.

Accordingly, the FMM strongly urges the relevant authorities to take immediate steps to reconnect the Jaffna peninsula by unblocking access to the Internet and by facilitating unrestricted access to basic telephony in the region.

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