(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – The much-debated Online Safety Bill, which has come under fire for some of its problematic aspects, is slated to be presented to the parliament today (Oct. 03). The session will commence at 9:30 a.m.
However, the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill would not be tabled in the parliament today, Minister of Justice, Prisons Affairs and Constitutional Reforms Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said speaking on the matter.
From 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Civil Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill (Second Reading), Elections (Special Provisions) Bill (Second Reading), Regulations under the Mediation (Special Categories of Disputes) Act and Order under the Judicature Act have been scheduled to be taken up for debate.
Subsequently, from 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the Motion at the Adjournment Time by the government will be taken up for debate.
The Online Safety Bill, published in the government gazette on September 18, aims to prohibit online communication of certain statements within the country, prevent the use of online accounts – both authentic and inauthentic – for the use of prohibited purposes, to make provisions to identify and declare online locations used for prohibited purposes, to suppress the financing and other support of communication of false statements and for other matters connected therewith.
However, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) which consists of multiple tech giants including Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Yahoo, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) have voiced concerns about the Bill.
The ICJ pointed out that the Bill stands to undermine the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country, including freedom of information and expression. The Geneva-based rights organization notes that the provisions related to the setting up, appointment and functions of an Online Safety Commission and other experts, the vague and overboard wording of conduct designated as punishable offences and unnecessary and disproportionate punitive sanctions are of particular concern.
Jeff Paine, Managing Director of AIC said the Bill provides for a draconian system to stifle dissent and Sri Lankans’ rights to expression. He stated that legislation should not dampen innovation by restricting public debate and the exchange of ideas while strongly urging the Sri Lankan government to work closely with industry stakeholders to develop regulations that are reasonable and consistent with international best practices.
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