News

No warrant needed for ‘fake news’ arrests

  • Police warns public not to even share ‘fake news’

  • Arrests made after new CID unit announcement

By Pamodi Waravita

 

In a media statement issued yesterday, 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.

The Police further noted that those arrested can be charged 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 06 of the Computer Crime Act, Sections 02 and 03 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979, and provisions of the Obscene Publications Ordinance, No. 04 of 1927.

This announcement came a day after the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) put together a special team of officers to take action against the propagation of false news on social media platforms.

Meanwhile, a suspect was arrested on 7 June and charged under Section 120 of the Penal Code (exciting or attempting to incite disaffection towards the State) and the provisions of the Computer Crime Act, No 24 of 2007 for allegedly posting a number of social media posts containing “fake news”. He was produced before the Kandy Chief Magistrate’s Court yesterday (8) and was released on a surety bail of Rs. 200,000.

The suspect had allegedly shared a number of satirical posts on his social media with regard to various politicians. In addition, the suspect has also shared a post which allegedly accused two State Ministers of paying Rs. 6,000 to a Muslim man to break the Buddha statues in Mawanella in the Kandy District to incite racial tensions.

Meanwhile, the Information Technology Society of Sri Lanka (ITSSL) Head Rajeev Yasiru Kuruwitage Mathew was also arrested on 7 June for allegedly publishing false information about a cyber attack and has been remanded until today (9).

The announcement by the police of a new unit being set up was criticised by many, including Government Parliamentarian Prof. Charitha Herath, who had said that it is risky and politically unhealthy to judge the “fake-ness” of social media content.

On 7 June, the main parliamentary Opposition Samagi Jana Balewgeya (SJB) announced that its youth wing has appointed a team of lawyers led by its Legal Secretary Madhava Jayawardena to provide legal assistance to those who hold views opposed to the Government if and when they are arrested under the guise of enforcing the law against those who publish false news.

SJB Chief Executive Officer Ajith P. Perera told The Morning yesterday that the Party may consider taking legal action against this decision by the Government, depending on the kind of cases that are brought up before them.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday, the Free Media Movement (FMM) Convenor Seetha Ranjani said that the organisation is in discussions about a course of action regarding the matter, as they are concerned about the interpretation of the term “fake news”.