Sri Lanka blocks social media after anti-Muslim riots

In this file photo taken on April 26, 2019 a priest speaks on a mobile phone outside St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, following a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. (AFP)
Updated 13 May 2019
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Sri Lanka blocks social media after anti-Muslim riots

  • Christian groups attacked Muslim-owned shops
  • Sri Lanka has been on edge since the April 21 attacks by militants suicide bombers

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka blocked access to Facebook and WhatsApp on Monday after a posting sparked anti-Muslim riots across several towns in the latest fallout from the Easter Sunday suicide attacks.
Christian groups attacked Muslim-owned shops in the northwestern town of Chilaw on Sunday in anger at a Facebook post by a shopkeeper, police said.
Security forces fired in the air to disperse mobs, but the violence spread to nearby towns where Muslim businesses were also attacked.
Sri Lanka has been on edge since the April 21 attacks by militants suicide bombers on three hotels and three churches which left 258 dead.
Police said a night curfew in Chilaw and nearby areas was relaxed Monday, but the social media ban was brought in to prevent incitement to violence.
“Don’t laugh more, 1 day u will cry,” was posted on Facebook by a Muslim shopkeeper, and local Christians took it to be a warning of an impending attack.
Mobs smashed the man’s shop and vandalized a nearby mosque prompting security forces to fire in the air to disperse the crowd. A curfew was imposed from Sunday afternoon until dawn Monday.
The main body of Islamic clerics, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), said there was increased suspicion of Muslims after the Easter attacks carried out by local militants.
“We call upon the members of the Muslim communities to be more patient and guard your actions and avoid unnecessary postings or hosting on social media,” the ACJU said.
Internet service providers said they have been instructed by the telecommunications regulator to block access to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and other platforms.
The latest unrest came as Catholic churches resumed their public Sunday masses for the first time since the bombings.
Sri Lanka has been under a state of emergency since the suicide bombings. Security forces and police have been given sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.
Muslims make up around 10 percent of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka’s 21 million population and Christians about 7.6 percent.


Two journalists released in Libya: TV channel

Updated 25 May 2019
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Two journalists released in Libya: TV channel

  • The capital’s southern suburbs have been the target of an offensive launched April 4 by Khalifa Haftar
  • The release of the television journalists followed local and international condemnation of their detention

TRIPOLI: Two Libyan journalists held by an armed group for more than three weeks have been released, the television channel they work for said Saturday.
“We congratulate the press world for the release of our two colleagues, Mohamad Al-Gurj and Mohamad Al-Chibani, who were kidnapped by Haftar’s forces on May 2 while they were covering the assault on Tripoli,” said the private channel Libya Al-Ahrar, which is based in Turkey.
It said they were freed on Friday.
The capital’s southern suburbs have been the target of an offensive launched April 4 by Khalifa Haftar, military strongman of an eastern administration aimed at seizing Tripoli from an internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
At least 510 people have been killed and around 2,500 wounded in the fighting, as well as more than 80,000 displaced, according to UN agencies.
The release of the television journalists followed local and international condemnation of their detention, including from media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
In a press freedom index compiled by RSF, Libya ranks a lowly 162nd out of 180 countries.