Sri Lanka blocks social media to keep economic protests in check, Sri Lankan authorities cut off access to social media platforms on Sunday after imposing a weekend nationwide curfew to quell protests over the country’s worsening economic crisis.
In its most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948, the South Asian nation is facing severe shortages of food, fuel, and other essentials, as well as sharp price increases and crippling power cuts.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on Friday, the day after a mob tried to storm his home in Colombo, and a nationwide curfew was imposed until Monday morning.
“Service providers advised to temporarily restrict social media platforms on the request of the defense ministry,” the broadcaster said, citing Sri Lanka’s media regulator.
Before the order went into effect, anonymous activists on social media called for mass protests on Sunday.
Hundreds of people defied the curfew on Saturday night and staged small protests in various Colombo neighborhoods, police and residents said, but they dispersed peacefully.
After severe shortages of essentials, sharp price hikes, and crippling power outages, the anti-government hashtags “#GoHomeRajapaksas” and “#GotaGoHome” have been trending locally on Twitter and Facebook for days.
On Friday, a social media activist was arrested for allegedly posting material that could cause public unrest, according to police.
The use of emergency laws to stifle democratic dissent has alarmed Western ambassadors in Colombo, who have said they are closely monitoring developments.
To maintain order, armed troops have been deployed across the country.
a shortage of foreign currency
Sri Lanka is struggling to service its $51 billion public debt due to a critical lack of foreign currency, with the pandemic jeopardizing vital revenue from tourism and remittances.
The import-dependent country has also been unable to pay for much-needed goods as a result of the crisis.
Diesel shortages have sparked outrage across Sri Lanka in recent days, resulting in protests at empty pumps and the imposition of 13-hour blackouts by electricity utilities to conserve fuel.
Many economists believe that government mismanagement, years of accumulated debt, and ill-advised tax cuts have exacerbated the crisis.
Sri Lanka is negotiating for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, and ratings agencies have expressed concerns about the government’s ability to service its $51 billion in public debt.