- Urge Minister of Public Security and Govt. to withdraw proposed Online Safety Bill
- Call on Minister to conduct meaningful consultations with all stakeholders
- Highlight importance of tackling issues of online gender-based violence and harmful speech while affirming human rights
In an open letter to the Public Security Minister yesterday, a group of civil society organisations and activists demanded that the Government withdraw the proposed Online Safety Bill, which is set to be introduced in Parliament next week.
The group urged the Minister to not only withdraw the proposed Online Safety Bill but also to engage in meaningful consultations with all stakeholders, including local groups.
“We are alarmed that the bill is proposed to be presented in Parliament at the end of January 2024 without addressing the concerns raised by key stakeholders, experts and civil society about the severe implications that the bill will have on the human rights and democratic values enshrined in the Constitution and international legal instruments to which people in Sri Lanka are entitled,” they said.
“Following the filing of over 50 petitions against the bill, which make it very clear that the bill requires significant amendments in order to be valid, the bill should be withdrawn, and discussions held in good faith, to tackle the issues of online gender-based violence and other harmful speech while respecting and affirming the rights of people in Sri Lanka and complying with the principles of necessity and proportionality,” the groups added.
They expressed concerns about the bill, including the fact that it will chill free speech and the attempt to establish an Online Safety Commission that is not independent of the executive. Other concerns included the bill’s failure to incorporate expert recommendations, as well as the potentially negative impact on Sri Lanka’s digital economy and online employment opportunities.
The open letter was signed by organisations working in the fields of human rights, digital security, media and others.