When 'doing the right thing' has become vital, now more than ever, we at 'Sri Lanka Mirror' celebrate our 08th anniversary today (01).
Since our inception in 2010, we have been thriving to safeguard the public's right to information and freedom of speech.
This firm stance has also led to us being subjected to harassment on many counts in the past.
Our greatest strength is our readership, who has been with us through thick and thin, their faith in us never growing dim. Thank you everyone for being with us throughout this journey, especially during bleak times.
Our story :
The maiden blow
The CID was not the first hurdle faced by 'Sri Lanka Mirror'. Barely after one year of operations, on Nov. 05, 2011, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) imposed an access control on the website with no prior warning.
The access control was imposed in a background where 'Sri Lanka Mirror' had already applied to be registered with the Ministry of Mass Communication on July 11, 2011 as a reputed media institution.
At that stage, 'Sri Lanka Mirror' was ranked 04th among the major news websites in Sri Lanka with a daily readership of 25,000 - 30,000 and a lucrative advertising revenue of around Rs. 500,000.
On the same day of imposing the sudden access control, the Information Department announced it was mandatory for all websites to be registered.
After reapplying for registration on Nov. 09, 2011, we obtained a license from the Ministry of Mass Media and Information and since then, we have been functioning as a registered news website in the country.
In addition, we legally challenged the sudden access control and on Dec 15 2011, the Supreme Court ordered to lift the access control imposed on the website.
Faced with severe financial hardships, the web team persisted and had even forgone their salaries.
Yet another attack was forthcoming.
SLM hauled by CID
On 2012, June 29, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) raided the SLM office then located on No. 71, Ferry Road, Ethul Kotte, Colombo, arresting five journalists (namely Srilankamirror editor Kelum Shivantha, photographer Ajith Seneviratne, journalists S. Manawadu, Himashi Karunaratne and Tharindu Rajapakse) and office assistant R.W. Premawathie.
In addition, Subhash Jayawardena and Siddique Kariyappar - two journalists of srilankaxnews.com - which was functioning from a different storey of the same building were arrested as well.
Computers used by the staff were seized as well.
Ms. Premawathie was released later in the night while the others were released on police bail on June 30.
They were charged of violating Articles 115, 188 and 120 of the Penal Code.
Equipment not returned
However, by then, the Article 118 was already nullified by the Amendment Act No. 12 of 2002.
On September 18, 2013, Colombo additional magistrate Prasanna Alwis ordered the release of Sri Lanka Mirror and Srilankaxnews journalists, until such time notice is issued on them to appear before the court again.
Although the magistrate ordered to release the seized computers after retaining the hard disks, the computers are yet to be released.
However, the arrested staff of Sri Lanka Mirror and Srilankaxnews filed Fundamental Rights petitions citing that their right to freedom of expression and to engage in a profession of their choice in accordance with clauses 13-1, 14-1(A) and 14-1(G) of the constitution have been violated.
The FR petitions are still being heard in the Supreme Court.
Our style, your trend
It is our style to report the truth in an unbiased manner. Although this style would not always be agreeable to governments or rulers, we have thrived to push on holding our head high, even through dark days of media suppression.
Nevertheless, we drew our strength from our readers and many well wishers who were truly with us through thick and thin.
This combination enabled us to set many trends in the field and become the best news website in Sri Lanka.
In 2012, the Mirror family won five awards at the Best web competition 2012 organised by the LK domain registry.
'Sri Lanka Mirror' received the overall bronze award for the best Sri Lankan website as well as the gold for the best news website in Sri Lanka.
We also received bronze under special awards - Sinhala sites.
In addition, our hosting and web developing company – Winhost Inc. was awarded silver under the best web developer category for their work on mirror.lk.
Further, our then sister site mirrorarts.lk won the silver award in the entertainment/lifestyle category.
Even though we were lauded by our leadership for our independent reporting style, it is a well known fact back then that the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) and the state owned Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) extended 'frosty' relations.
The site was blocked since May 12, 2014 and on inquiring from the Internet Service Providers they have informed us the website has been blocked after the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) informed them to do so.
Though attempts were made to contact the then Director General of the TRC - Anusha Palpita in this regard, we were informed by his secretary that Mr. Palpita was currently overseas and would be returning on May 17, 2014.
Soon afterwards, we directed a formal correspondence to him with copies forwarded to then President, Opposition Leader, Minister of Media and Defence Secretary.
On May 21, 2014 a complaint was also filed with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) over the block.
Simultaneously, the Professional Web Journalists' Association (PWJA) also filed a complaint with the HRCSL, against access control imposed on eight websites including Sri Lanka Mirror, Lanka E News, Lanka News Web, Lanka Guardian, Tamil Net, Colombo Telegraph, The Independent, and Jaffna Tamils.
Even though the HRCSL pledged to provide a solution within a fortnight, such measures are yet to be taken.
SLT access control remains
Although ISPs Dialog, Etisalat, Mobitel and Airtel removed the access control imposed on Sri Lanka Mirror, the block remained on the island's main ISP provider - Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) for a prolonged period of time.
Though 'Sri Lanka Mirror' was summoned on Sep. 16, 2014 over the complaint lodged, the HRCSL had informed that an alternate date would be given as the then Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) - Anusha Palpita would not able to appear on the said date. The date remains pending.
Raised in parliament
In 2014, a parliamentary debate was also held regarding the imposed access control over several news websites including 'Sri Lanka Mirror'.
The debate was held following a suggestion made by the General Secretary of United National Party (UNP), Tissa Attanayake, when the parliament was adjourned on July 29, 2014.
Parliamentarians Tissa Attanayake, Ajith P. Perera and Mangala Samaraweera took up the issue of 'Sri Lanka Mirror' during the debate.
Details pertaining to the debate can be found on pages 607 - 627 of the June 29 Hansard.
UN takes up web censorship issue
On October 2014, UN Human Rights Committee member Ms. Anja Seibert - Fohr raised the issue of website censorship while reviewing Sri Lanka at the 112 session of the committee.
Noting that they have received reports of news websites such as 'Sri Lanka Mirror', 'Lanka E News' and 'The Colombo Telegraph' being blocked within Sri Lanka, Ms. Seibert - Fohr has urged the Sri Lankan delegation to clarify on which legal provisions these websites were censored.