By Uditha Jayasinghe and Devjyot Ghoshal
COLOMBO, April 3 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka has restricted access to major social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, internet monitoring organisation NetBlocks said on Sunday, after the government imposed a curfew to tackle growing unrest amid an unprecedented economic crisis.
“Real-time network data show Sri Lanka has imposed a nationwide social media blackout, restricting access to platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Instagram as emergency is declared amid widespread protests,” NetBlocks said in a tweet.
A senior police officer based in the commercial capital Colombo confirmed the restrictions imposed on social media platforms.
“Social media has also been blocked by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission,” Nihal Thalduwa, senior superintendent of police, told Reuters.
The restrictions come after the government on Saturday implemented a countrywide curfew as protests against the government’s handling of the economic crisis turned violent.The curfew will run till 6 a.m. (0030 GMT) on Monday.
Thalduwa said 664 people who broke curfew rules were arrested by the police in the Western Province, the country’s most populous administrative division which includes Colombo.
The authorities imposed restrictions on social media following orders from the government.
“The social media block is temporary and imposed due to special instructions given by the Defence Ministry. It was imposed in the interests of the country and people to maintain calm,” Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Chairman Jayantha de Silva told Reuters.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had introduced a state of emergency on Friday, raising fears of a crackdown on protests as the country witnesses inflation, shortages of essentials and power cuts.
Emergency powers in the past have allowed the military to arrest and detain suspects without warrants, but the terms of the current powers are not yet clear.(Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)