Freedom of expression is a threatened species in Sri Lanka at the moment and one can only hope for a change of scene, but the way things are at the moment we aren’t holding our breath…
That was Java Jones, and I couldn’t have said it better. Freedom of expression is largely seen as an unaffordable luxury by most of the intellectual crowd in Sri Lanka right now. Journalists are pretty much a oppressed group of people and now bloggers are slowly beginning to wake up to the danger on the horizon as well.
But how dangerous is speaking out in the blogsphere? Admittedly, the English blogosphere (symbolized by kottu, acchaaru etc.) does not cater or speak for the larger part of the Sri Lankan population; the language and technological barriers being too great to overcome for now. However, it does succeed in reaching a large part of the tech savvy intelligentsia both here and abroad. And thus it can be credited with the status of being a valuable niche player in Sri Lankan media as a whole, and an important one in its new media sphere.
Has the government wised up to whats going on? And if they have, how much longer can the blogosphere push its buttons before some serious action is taken? Bloggers increase in notoriety as the popularity and influence of the medium increases, and when more people look to blogs for information, oppressive and authoritarian governments usually take action. This is how it happened in China, Iran, Burma etc.
Most people seem to think, in hushed tones of thought, that Sri Lanka is heading for or is already in the grips of an authoritarian regime. The portrayal of the president more in the guise of a king as opposed to a democratic leader in propagandist media doesn’t leave any illusions as to what the marketing angle of the government is either. To my mind they’re playing up the deep seated fascination rural Sri Lankans have about the kings of old; the great Dutugemunus.
The problem with kings though, is that it’s their way or the highway, if you’re lucky. And that simply does not sit very well in a society craving for freedom. But i digress.
So is freedom of expression on Sri Lankan blogs under significant threat as yet? Or is it getting there?