Sri Lanka 'pornographers' outed in police crackdown

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

Image caption, Critics say the drive will not work when sex can be widely seen on DVDs

The faces of dozens of people accused of appearing in pornographic films, in violation of anti-obscenity laws, have been published by Sri Lankan media.

They appeared in a Sinhala-language paper, with a police notice asking the public to help trace those pictured.

A magistrate had told police to identify and arrest the people, and ordered the publication of the images.

Reports say the alleged porn actors could be fined and sentenced to six months in prison.

The police say that if they can apprehend those in the pictures, that will lead them to the pornography's distributors.

The authorities say pornography leads to sexual crimes, including rape.

Victims or participants?

Photos of 83 people, 80 women and three men, had been released for publication, said a police spokesman, Prishantha Jayakody.

The Lakbima daily newspaper published 27 faces on Tuesday.

Supt Jayakody told the BBC there had been no public response so far to the pictures, which were sourced from a range of Sri Lankan pornographic websites.

"Most of these people are Sri Lankans," said Supt Jayakody. "We know this from their features."

He added that organised crime could have been involved in the distribution of the material, but downplayed the notion that anyone might have appeared in the films against their will.

Asked if he believed some might have been under the threat of violence, Supt Jayakody said that if they came to be questioned, such facts should become clear.

However, a civil rights lawyer, Rohan Edrisinha, said he believed some of those involved might be under-age girls, who should be viewed as "victims" rather than "voluntary participants".

Mr Edrisinha said he feared publication of the photos would have negative implications for privacy and civil liberties.

He said the measure, taken in response to a proliferation in pornographic websites, needed a "careful, measured response".

The news editor of one publication told the BBC they would not publish the pictures because of ethical concerns.

Three months ago authorities sought to block a large number of pornographic sites, saying they were especially concerned about those which might be accessible via mobile phone.

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