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Sri Lankan lawmakers debate controversial web security invoice amid protests by rights teams

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan lawmakers on Tuesday started debating a controversial web security invoice that has been criticized by opposition politicians, journalists and rights teams as a transfer by the federal government to stifle freedom of speech.

Public Safety Minister Tiran Alles launched the invoice in Parliament, saying it seeks to deal with issues associated to on-line fraud, abuse and false statements that threaten nationwide safety and stability.

He mentioned the legal guidelines are essential to cope with offenses dedicated on-line, noting that final 12 months greater than 8,000 such complaints have been filed with police associated to sexual abuse, monetary scams, cyber harassment, knowledge theft and different offenses.

Nevertheless, media, web and civil rights teams say the invoice would have “a chilling impact on free speech,” as a number of provisions would serve to undermine human rights and freedom of expression. The teams have demanded that the federal government withdraw the invoice.

Lawmakers are anticipated to vote on the invoice on Wednesday.

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The invoice goals to determine a web based security fee with “wide-ranging powers to limit free speech” that would direct customers, service suppliers and others to “take down content material and block entry to accounts on extraordinarily imprecise and overbroad grounds,” mentioned Article 19, a rights watchdog, and 50 different teams.

Opposition lawmaker Rauff Hakeem mentioned the federal government is attempting to throttle freedom of speech in Sri Lanka, including that “a really oppressive surroundings goes to be created.”

“It is a manifestation of a authorities which is attempting to dismantle even the remaining few safeguards for freedom of expression on this nation and to destroy democracy,” Hakeem mentioned.

Alles rejected the accusations, saying the invoice was not drafted with the intention of harassing media or political opponents.

Debate over the invoice comes as Sri Lanka struggles to emerge from its worst financial disaster, which hit the island nation two 12 months in the past. The nation declared chapter in April 2022 with greater than $83 billion in debt, greater than half of it to international collectors.

The disaster brought on extreme shortages of meals, gasoline and different requirements. Strident public protests led to the ouster of then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The IMF agreed final March to a $2.9 billion bailout package deal.

Beneath new President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the extreme shortages of meals, gasoline and drugs have largely abated over the previous 12 months and authorities have restored energy provide. However public dissatisfaction has grown over the federal government’s effort to extend income by elevating electrical energy payments and imposing heavy new revenue taxes on professionals and companies.

Media and civil rights teams accuse the federal government of attempting to introduce extra repressive legal guidelines in an try and “suppress the general public’s proper to expression as a slender effort with the intention of profitable the upcoming elections at any price.”

Sri Lanka’s presidential and parliamentary elections are prone to be held later this 12 months or early subsequent 12 months.

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