Sri Lankan Parliament votes to debate controversial online safety bill

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Parliament on Tuesday voted to go ahead with a scheduled debate on a controversial online safety bill that critics say will stifle freedom of speech. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had called for a vote to decide if the two-day debate should proceed.
Out of 225 legislators, 83 voted in favour of holding the debate while 50 voted against it.
The opposition parties had sought more time for consultations on the bill.
Opposition MPs and other critics have warned that the online safety bill could be a threat to freedom of speech.
Tiran Alles, the public security minister, while opening the debate said the Supreme Court had suggested amendments to the bill and they would be incorporated after the bill is approved in parliament on Wednesday.
As Alles was speaking, a civil group demonstrated near Parliament to oppose the bill.
They said the government aims to censor the expression of public opinion through social media.
The bill aims to establish the online safety commission, make provisions to prohibit online communication of certain statements of fact in Sri Lanka and prevent the use of online accounts and inauthentic online accounts for restricted purposes. It also makes provisions to identify and declare online locations used for prohibited purposes in the island nation, suppress the financing, and other support of communication of false statements of fact.
The Asian Internet Coalition (AIC) in a letter to Alles had objected to the bill.
“The proposed legislation, in its present form, poses significant challenges that, if not addressed comprehensively, could undermine the potential growth of Sri Lanka’s digital economy,” it said.
The vote on the parliamentary approval of the bill is to take place on Wednesday. Source

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