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‘Fake news’ zero draft to Cabinet in 3 weeks

2 years ago

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By Pamodi Waravita   The proposed new laws to curb the spread of fake news online on social media via the internet is likely to be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers within the next three weeks, according to Cabinet Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella. “The zero draft of the new law is currently being finalised and should come to the Cabinet in a couple of weeks,” he told The Morning. Earlier this year, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the relevant concept papers to make fake news an offence under the Penal Code. At the time, government sources also told The Morning that the advisory committee to draft the laws is headed by Nalinda Indatissa PC and that the laws that are being drafted are under the principle idea that no social media account should be operated under a fake identity. In April this year, Minister of Justice Ali Sabry told the media that laws similar to the Singaporean Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act will be introduced to Sri Lanka as well, noting that almost 17% of Sri Lanka’s social media activists are fake. Just last week, the Police requested the public to refrain from sharing fake news on social media, adding that those who do so can be arrested without a warrant under Sections 120, 286, 286 A, 291 A, 291 B, 345, 365 D, 402, 403, and 486 of the Penal Code; Section 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No. 56 of 2007; Section 6 of the Computer Crime Act No. 24 of 2007; Sections 2 and 3 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979; and the Obscene Publications Ordinance No. 04 of 1927. Following this declaration, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) raised serious concerns over the provisions in the relevant circular issued by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), as they could be misused by police officers in order to stifle the freedom of speech and expression which is a fundamental right protected in the Constitution. The BASL also cited Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare PC in a Supreme Court (SC) judgement in February 2021, stating that “the SC has recognised that the right to comment on public issues and criticise public officials and public institutions is essential for the exercise of civil and political freedoms so valued by a democratic society.”

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