ECONOMYNEXT – A law to control Sri Lanka’s online discourse labelled the Online Safety Bill will send a negative signal on the island’s reforms and recovery, the US ambassador to Colombo, Julie Chung has said.
The controversial bill on which many provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court as violating the constitution was passed amid strong protests by opposition legislators.
Civil society organizations have said it has a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech, and global tech companies also raised serious concerns.
“When major global tech companies characterize the bill as “unworkable” and stifling innovation and democracy, instead of actually addressing online crimes, frankly this sends a negative signal in Sri Lanka’s path towards reform and recovery,” Chung told members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka according to the text of her speech.
“Previous bills, such as the Personal Data Protection Act, took much longer to craft, but did a better job of taking stakeholder feedback into account.
“To work on legislation and reforms that will be durable, enforceable, and wise, the Sri Lankan government will need to do better in the future. This will be key to improving the business climate.”
The bill was rushed through parliament with opposition legislators protesting that some of the changes brought to the original bill was not in line with what the Supreme Court suggested to bring it in line with the constitution.
“It’s important that the government of Sri Lanka carry out reforms,” Ambassador Chung said.
“But it’s also important to explain those reforms to the people in a clear manner. It makes for slower, but better legislation and reforms.” (Colombo/Jan31/2023)