Colombo: The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has ruled that freedom of expression was not an absolute right and could be restricted.

The ruling came as it refused a petition filed by the media watchdog -- Free Media Movement -- against the government decision to ban five news websites. The court refused to allow the case to proceed.

The government had last year banned five websites -- Lankawaynews, Sri Lanka Guardian, Sri Lanka Mirror, TamilNet and Lanka-e-news -- for failing to register with the government.

The watchdog had approached the Court saying the blockade breached people's right to information and freedom of expression.

The Court's ruling however held that freedom of expression was not an absolute right, could be restricted and also that registering was needed to safeguard people from being vilified, defamed among others as people needed to know who was behind the websites in order to seek remedies.

Last year's regulation was followed by another order which required mobile phone service companies to obtain prior approval of news stories with regard to national security.

(Agencies)

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