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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2276

Sri Lanka: Social Media Blocked To Avoid Escalation Of Anti- Muslim Violence

Colombo, 07 March. (Asiantribune.com):

Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) has blocked social media networks - such as Facebook Inc. Viber and Whatsapp across the country for three days, to prevent the spread of communal violence, officials said on Wednesday.

The TRC said that the decision was taken following a request made by Defense Ministry.

The government imposed a state of emergency in the island after Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and businesses belonging to minority Muslims in the central highlands district incensed over an altercation over the weekend.

Some of the violence has been instigated over social media with postings appearing on Facebook threatening more attacks against Muslims, the government said.

Digital Minister Harin Fernando said today that the measures taken to restrict access to certain social media sites were “extraordinary but temporary”, explaining that it was a response to “limit the increasing spread of hate speech and violence through these mediums.”

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said there had been “several incidents” throughout Tuesday night in the Kandy area, famous for its tea plantations.

“The police arrested seven people. Three police officers were injured from the incidents,” Gunasekara told Reuters. There was no information about how many civilians had been wounded, he said.

Some of the violence has been instigated over social media with postings appearing on Facebook threatening more attacks against Muslims, the government said.

On Wednesday, it said Facebook, Viber and Whatsapp have been blocked across the country for three days.

Earlier today, Government Spokesperson Minister Rajitha Senaratne told reporters the government had instructed the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) to restrict access to social media sites in a bid to limit the spread of hate speech and violence.

Sinhala-Buddhist ultra-nationalists used popular communication platforms – particularly Facebook – to issue a call to arms after a Sinhalese man was killed in Kandy on Saturday (3) by four Muslim men.

A mob descended on Kandy and set fire to Muslim establishments and homes prompting Police and the Special Task Force (STF) to use tear gas to disperse the crowds. Over 24 persons were arrested, while the body of a youth was discovered in a burned house on Tuesday (6).

The government has imposed a curfew on all parts of the Kandy administrative district, while the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has sent three special teams, each consisting three DIGs and 3 SPs, to Kandy to control the situation on the ground.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, a special CID team was also sent to Kandy to begin investigations into the incident. The CID team is expected to submit a report to the Prime Minister – who is the Minister of Law and Order – at the conclusion of the investigation.

- Asian Tribune –

Sri Lankan police officers attempt to douse burning shops in Ambatenna, in central Sri Lanka, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Sri Lanka's president declared a state of emergency Tuesday amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in several central hill towns could spread. (AP Photo/Rukmal Gamage) The Associated  Press
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