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Thursday December 7th, 2023

Police could misuse “fake news” allegations to stifle free speech: Sri Lanka Bar Association

ECONOMYNEXT – The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has expressed deep concern that a recently announced decision to arrest people who share “fake news” on social media could be misused by police to stifle free speech.

“Whilst the BASL has no objection to enforcing laws relating to hate speech and incitement to voilence, it is important to ensure that authorities do not use such laws to stifle genuine expression of dissent and criticism,” the BASL said in a statement on June 11.

The BASL is apprehensive of the executive including the police being allowed to decide on what is or is not fake news and on the basis of their subjective decisions to cause arrests and detention of persons, it said.

Related: Poorly worded legal provisions can be construed to cover “fake news”: Sri Lanka lawyer

“The BASL is deeply concerned that the provisions of the laws mentioned in the circular could be misused by police officers in order to stifle the freedom of speech and expression which is a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution. At a time when the country remains under travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that freedom of speech and expression of the people and their right to dissent and disagree are protected,” it said.

In its statement, the BASL cited judgements of the Supreme Court in this regard, where Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare held on February 17, 2021 that: “The judgements of the Supreme Court constitute a body of jurisprudence that has evolved over the years, and the Supreme Court has recognised that the right to comment on public issues and criticise public officials and public institutions is essential for the exercise of civil and political freedoms so valued by democratic society.”

The court quoted with approval the following passages found in several decisions of Sri Lankan courts, the BASL said:

  • “The right to support or to criticise governments and political parties, policies and programmes is fundamental to the democratic way of life; …and democracy requires not merely that dissent be tolerated, but that it be encouraged”
  • “Criticism of the Government, and of political parties and policies, is per se, a permissible exercise of the freedom of speech and expression under Article14 (1) (a).”

Given that the very prospect of being arrested for expressing harsh criticism or dissent can itself have a chilling effect that would erode the citizens’ freedom to openly share critical views or freely comment on important matters as members/stakeholders of society, the Bar said, utmost care and restraint should be exercised in causing the arrest of any person for an offence pertaining to alleged ‘fake news’ prior to a full investigation of any complaint.

“It would be consistent with due respect for democratic values and freedoms, for any decision to arrest without warrant to be resorted to keeping in mind the spirit of preserving fundamental freedoms and the need to avoid suppressing or oppressing the right to free expression of views. In our view this would be better achieved, if any decision to arrest or charge any person is taken only after careful due consideration and professional assessment that there is a real and reasonable prospect of an alleged offence in law being committed, with advice from the Attorney General as may be warranted in the relevant context.”

“Needless to say, enforcement of the law must be fair, even-handed and non-selective in its application, the importance of which we urge you to consistently uphold,” it added.

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COP28 sees new era for climate action with $57 bln pledge; Sri Lanka’s proposals need approval

ECONOMYNEXT – The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) has witnessed governments, businesses, investors, and philanthropies announcing support of over $57 billion across the climate agenda in just the first four days of the global event with eight pledges and declarations receiving historic support.

After a historic deal to operationalize a fund for climate impact response on the first day, announcements have poured in across the entire climate agenda, including on finance, health, food, nature, and energy.

On climate finance, the COP28 host United Arab Emirates launched a $30 billion catalytic fund, ALTÉRRA, with an emphasis on unlocking private finance across the Global South.

The host nation also has announced $200 million for SDRs and $150 million for water scarcity.

The World Bank has announced an increase of $9 billion annually to finance climate-related projects, while the first two days of COP28 saw $725 million in pledges after a historic response to loss and damage was operationalized.

Eight new declarations have been announced which are expected to help transform every major system of the global economy.

These include the first ever declarations on food systems transformation and health, plus declarations on renewable energy and efficiency, as well as initiatives to decarbonize heavy emitting industries.

The eight declarations are:

  • The Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge has been endorsed by 119 countries.
  • The COP28 UAE Declaration on Agriculture, Food, & Climate has received endorsements from 137 countries.
  • The COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health has been endorsed by 125 countries.
  • The COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate Relief, Recovery & Peace has been endorsed by 74 countries and 40 organizations.
  • The COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate Finance has been endorsed by 12 countries.
  • The Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (Champ) Pledge has been endorsed by 64 countries.
  • The Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter has been endorsed by 51 companies, representing 40 percent of global oil production.
  • The Industrial Transition Accelerator has been endorsed by 35 companies and six industry associations, including World Steel Association, International Aluminium Institute, Global Renewable Alliance, Global Cement and Concrete Association, Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, International Air Transport Association.

Three additional declarations will be announced in the coming days on hydrogen, cooling, and gender. The number of countries supporting these declarations and pledges is growing and demonstrates an unprecedented level of inclusivity at this COP.

Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced three new proposals: Climate Justice Forum (CJF), Tropical Belt Initiative (TBI), and International Climate Change University in Sri Lanka.

However, the proposals are yet to get approval from the general UN body though the island nation’s authorities expect wide support for the moves.

“What we have done is to talk to countries about the initiatives and launch them. Next step is for them to be formally recognized by the main body,” Ruwan Wijewardena, the Senior Advisor to President Wickremesinghe on Climate change, told Economy Next.

Breakdown of financial pledges and contributions so far:

  • Loss and Damage: $725 million
  • Green Climate Fund: $3.5 billion (increasing second replenishment to $12.8 billion)
  • Renewable Energy: $2.5 billion
  • Technology: $568 million
  • Methane: $1.2 billion
  • Climate Finance: Over $30 billion from UAE (plus $200 million in Special Drawing Rights and an increase of $9 billion annually from the World Bank)
  • Food: $2.6 Billion
  • Nature: $2.6 Billion
  • Health: $2.7 billion
  • Water: $150 million
  • Relief, Recovery and Peace: $1.2 billion
  • Local Climate Action: $467 million (Dubai/Dec 6/2023)
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Sri Lanka to start international tourism branding campaign

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will soon start a tourism international marketing campaign under the theme ‘You will come back for more,” Tourism Minister Harin Fernando said.

“We have not had a branding campaign for 15 years,” Fernando told parliament. “A campaign has been developed by Ogilvy.

“It will help us reach the target of 2.3 million tourists next year.”

This year Sri Lanka is expecting a 1.5 million tourists with close to 1.3 million reached by November.

About 6,000 tourists are now coming each day, at the moment he said.

On December 10, three cruise ships are due. (Colombo/Nov06/2023)

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Sri Lanka 3-month Treasuries yields fall

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Treasury bill yields eased across maturities with the tree month yield falling 19 basis points to 14.67 percent, data from the state debt office showed.

A total of 185 billion rupees in bills were sold, with sharply lower than offered volumes in 12-months sold.

The debt office offered 55 billion rupees of 3 -month bills and sold 87 billion.

92 billion rupees of 6-month bills were sold after offering 60 billion at 14.38 percent down 14 basis points.

Only 5.2 billion rupees of 12-month bills were sold after offering 70 billion rupees, at 12.88 percent, down 01 basis point. (Colombo/Dec06/2023)

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