COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- The Sri Lankan government has directed Web sites carrying news about the country to register, saying some sites have been discrediting the government.
The sites must register with the Ministry of Mass Media and Information, which said it was acting after receiving complaints of character assassination on some sites, Colombo Page reported.
The announcement comes just days after the United States expressed concern over the blocking of the Internet news site Lanka-e-News in Sri Lanka.
The ministry said some of the reports on dissenting Web sites have sought to target President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the government or top officials.
"This ministry believes that those who are operating and maintaining these clandestine Web sites have been doing so to discredit the president and the government," Colombo Page reported the ministry said in a statement.
A Nov. 1 statement on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka said it is "deeply concerned" the Lanka-e-News had been "blocked" in the country.
The statement said while it does not endorse the views of any particular media outlet, the United States believes a free and independent media is vital to ensuring the health and continuation of any democracy.
"Freedom of expression, including unfettered access to Internet news Web sites, is a basic right which must be respected," the statement said.
The BBC reported access to at least six news Web sites has been blocked recently and quoted critics as saying the steps come on the heels of an established pattern of Web censorship.
The sites blocked include a new one operated by the main opposition United National Party, the BBC reported.