The Professional Web Journalists Association (PWJA) said that the blocking of Facebook and other social media sites by the Government was a bad decision and it didn’t address the real issue of racism.
“The Government should do something about this instead of blocking access to Facebook and causing a huge inconvenience to the public.”, Ruwan Hettiarachchi a member of the PWJA told a press conference held by their organisation in Colombo today.
“The real racists are not hiding on Facebook, they are out in the open,” one of the members said.
They stressed the importance of Facebook and Social Media for many people including online businesses. “Many businesses operate on social media,” they said. “How can these people carry out their operations now?”
“The Government doesn’t understand how much the country earns from the operation of social media,” one of them added.
Emphasis was laid on how social media, WhatsApp and Viber in particular, had contributed to reducing telephone expenses for the people. They also said that many people couldn’t talk to their relatives and friends abroad as WhatsApp and Viber calls were blocked.
“The Government initially said that this was only a 72 hour ban. Now the Government is saying that it will be lifted by Friday. Are they trying to fool the people?” one of them asked.
They said that the ban was meaningless as some people still accessed these sites through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The common user who doesn’t know about these things is the one most inconvenienced by this.
They also said that the President and Prime Minister and other members of the Government continued to use and update their Facebook pages. “Is this a fair law?” They asked.
Responding to a question on Facebook’s planned course of action as a result of the ban, they said; Facebook is a business, but they won’t lose much from this ban as Sri Lanka has only about 5-6 million users.
They said there were some people who used Facebook to spread racial hatred and these people should be reported and dealt with. But a complete blocking of access is not the solution. A more efficient resolve should be looked at.
“We ask the Government to please lift the ban immediately, instead of putting the public at further inconvenience”, they concluded.
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