Mar 15, Colombo: The Human Rights Council of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) welcoming the steps taken by the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) to lift restrictions on social media requested the TRC to in future strike a balance between people's right to information and maintenance of public order to ensure constitutional rights of all people.
In a letter addressed to the Chairman of the TRC, Secretary to the President Austin Fernando, the Chairperson of the HRCSL, Dr. Deepika Udagama said HRCSL recognizes the critical necessity to protect freedom of expression and the right to information as guaranteed by the Constitution of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka's international human rights obligations.
"ln doing so, we recognize the need to strike the necessary balance between those rights and maintenance of public order and the protection of the rights of all," Dr. Udagama said in her letter.
The President today instructed the TRC to immediately lift the ban restricting access to social media platforms. The ban was imposed following racial and religious attacks on Muslims last week in Kandy, which according to the authorities were fueled by the hate speech in social media.
HRCSL said it has received several complaints from the public regarding the continuing restrictions on social media even after the violence in the Kandy District has been brought under control.
"While we are encouraged by media reports that TRC has taken steps to Iift the restriction on social media as quickly as possible, we also wish to point out that any future policy regarding the regulation of social media to deal with hate speech must strike that necessary balance so that freedom of expression and the right to information are restricted only within the legal limits permitted by the Constitution and Sri Lanka's international human rights obligations in the larger public interest," HRCSL Chairperson said.
"Further, we wish to once again reiterate the urgent need to take legal action against those who are using social media to propagate communal hatred and incite sectarian violence under applicable laws, in particular under the ICCPR Act No. 56 of 2007," she added.