Fake news likely to be criminalised

  • Justice Ministry heading discussions

  • Penal Code to be amended


The Government is considering introducing fake news as an offence under the Penal Code, The Morning learnt.

Speaking to The Morning, Ministry of Justice Legal Division Additional Secretary Piyumanthi Peiris said that the Justice Ministry is heading discussions to amend the Penal Code to make fake news an offence.

The Cabinet of Ministers approved the relevant concept papers to draft this as a bill last month.

The Morning also learnt that the Ministry of Mass Media is involved in the conceptualisation of the amendments. However, numerous attempts made by The Morning to contact Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella over several days regarding the matter, proved futile.

The term “fake news” was popularised by former US President Donald Trump in 2016 and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2019, with the definition “news that conveys or incorporates false, fabricated, or deliberately misleading information, or that is characterised as or accused of doing so”.

Following the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019, the Yahapalana Government proposed a bill in Parliament which included a five-year jail term for those caught spreading fake news and hate speech on social media due to the surge of disinformation that surfaced after the attacks.

The then Government also shut down internet access in 2018 during the Aluthgama riots to prevent further violence due to the rapid spread of anti-Muslim content on social media.


Fake news likely to be criminalised