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Public servants to file FR over social media muzzling

4 months ago

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  • Pledge to challenge restrictions in Supreme Court in 2 weeks
  • Cite violation of Constitutional free speech 
  BY Mirudhula Thambiah   Trade unions (TUs) representing Government sector officials will file a Fundamental Rights (FR) petition in the Supreme Court (SC) in two weeks against the social media related restrictions imposed on said officials, claiming that it is a violation of their freedom of speech. Speaking to The Morning, Sri Lanka Government Officers’ Trade Union Association National Organiser B.A.P. Basnayake said yesterday (28) that following discussions with certain other trade unions, they have decided to file a FR petition against the imposing of social media restrictions on Tuesday (27).  “We are already obtaining signatures from those who are unhappy about this decision,” he added.  Basnayake, noting that the freedom of speech is recognised in the Constitution, charged that the issuance of this circular is a violation of the said right.  “Our freedom of speech cannot be curtailed just because we are Government employees. However, it is unacceptable if a responsible officer in the Government sector unnecessarily expresses a view causing disrepute to the Government. That being said, Government employees too have the right to express their opinions,” he added. He further noted: “We express our concern over this restriction. This is a violation of the Constitution.” He also pointed out that the restriction imposed on Government employees over the usage of social media is part of the policy of suppression imposed by the current Government. Basnayake also noted that such actions will restrict the right of exchanging and expressing opinions.  “Everything is being suppressed now. Our opinions are being suppressed. At the moment, due to these restrictions, Government employees cannot express their opinions. If this continues, even members of the general public won’t be able to express their opinions,” he added.  On Tuesday (27), the Ministry of Public Administration issued a circular stating that Government officials expressing opinions and views on social media failing to follow the provisions under the Establishments Code will be subject to disciplinary action. The circular further stated that Government sector officials who express opinions on social media without adhering to the provisions of Sections Six and Seven of Chapter XLVII of Volume Il of the Establishments Code are committing an offence, liable for disciplinary action. At the same time, the circular highlighted that Government sector officers who are not entitled to the exercise of political rights and have been found to be expressing political views will also be subject to disciplinary action.

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