An Echelon Media Company
Tuesday September 26th, 2023

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

ECONOMYNEXT – Broadly and poorly worded provisions in Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Computer Crimes Act can be construed in bad faith to cover alleged falsehoods disseminated online, human rights lawyer Dr Gehan Gunatilleke said.

“For example, section 6 of the Computer Crimes Act criminalises using a computer in a manner that results in danger or imminent danger to ‘public order’. It is conceivable for law enforcement authorities to interpret this provision in bad faith and argue that dissemination of false content poses a danger to public order,” Gunatilleke told EconomyNext on June 09.

Sri Lanka police said on June 08 that citizens publishing or sharing news deemed ‘false’ on social media can be arrested without a warrant. Police said anyone creating, publishing, sharing, forwarding, or aiding and abetting the spread of ‘fake news’ on social media will be considered to have committed an offence under provisions in the police ordinance, the penal code, the prevention of terrorism act (PTA), the computer crimes act and other laws.

Related: Sri Lankans posting information deemed ‘false’ on social media face arrest without warrant

Gunatilleke said the power to arrest without a warrant depends on the offence.

“If the person is being arrested under the PTA for instance, the police officer can arrest the person without a warrant. The Criminal Procedure Code authorises a police officer to make arrests without a warrant if the offence is ‘cognizable’,” he said.

A cognizable offence, as classified in the legal systems of Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, is an offence in which a police officer has the authority to arrest without a warrant and start investigating without a court order.

According to Gunatilleke, all offences under the Computer Crimes Act are classified as cognizable within the meaning of the Criminal Procedure Code.

“That means if someone is arrested on suspicion of an offence under the Computer Crimes Act, it is possible for the arrest to take place without a warrant. It is possible that the police are relying on these laws in order to avoid the requirement of obtaining a warrant,” he said.

Though the offences in the PTA and Computer Crimes Act do not directly deal with false content, but according to Gunatilleke, certain provisions such as Section 6 of the Computer Crimes Act as stated above may be interpreted to cover the dissemination of false content.

Asked what constitutes falsehoods or “fake news” online, the lawyer said Sri Lankan law has no reference to fake news.

“The only offence that I can think of that directly relates to dissemination of false content is section 98 of the Police Ordinance, which makes it an offence to ‘spread false reports with the view to alarm the inhabitants of any place within Sri Lanka and create a panic’. There are many elements to this offence, which I think make it impossible for there to be reasonable suspicion merely by observing a person’s actions,” he said.

Gunatilleke said the falsehood of the content, and reasonable suspicion of the person’s intention to alarm others and create panic, should be established before making an arrest.

“But I’m not sure whether this provision is being relied on to arrest people. As I said, it’s possible that the police are relying on the PTA and Computer Crimes Act instead,” he said.

“If they are arresting people under section 120 of the Penal Code (exciting disaffection), that too is a cognizable offence, and an arrest can be made without a warrant,” he added. (Colombo/June09/2021)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Future SJB govt to “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with IMF: Harsha de Silva

ECONOMYNEXT – A future government led by the incumbent main opposition party the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) will “refine” Sri Lanka’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), SJB legislator Harsha de Silva said.

The MP tweeted Monday September 26 morning that a closed-door discussion between the SJB and an IMF team that’s currently in Sri Lanka to review the ongoing programme was productive and had focused on governance, transparency and equity in the reform process.

“It was a good discussion. We were quite frank,” said de Silva in a clip he shared of him speaking to the privately owned NewsFirst network.

“Yes, we said we agree as the SJB that we need to work with the IMF, and that we accept that large-scale economic reform will have to take place. That was the baseline.

“However, the leader of the opposition said that, under our government, certain modifications will have to happen,” said de Silva.

The MP, who also chairs the parliament’s Committee on Public Finance (COPF), said this is because the people “obviously see that there is inequity in the implementation of this agreement”.

News footage of the SJB’s latest round of talks with the IMF team showed that SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa along with de Silva and a handful of his colleagues in the party were joined by former Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs who were vocal supporters of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. MPs Nalaka Godahewa and G L Peiris also seen joining a group photo with the IMF and the SJB lawmakers.

The SJB was among the first to demand that the then government of ex-President Rajapaksa approach the IMF before Sri Lanka’s currency crashed in 2022. Over the months since incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration embarked on an IMF-prescribed reform agenda, the opposition party has adopted a more critical position on the international lender.

In May,  SJB MP Kabir Hashim speaking at a public event in Monaragala alluded to a unique vision his party possesses with regard to macroeconomic development that doesn’t necessarily include the IMF.


Sri Lanka’s SJB no longer enamoured of IMF, promises new govt in three moons

The SJB’s position with regard to the IMF programme, Sri Lanka’s 17th so far, has been less than consistent. The party, which was among the first to call for a deal with the iInternational lender at the onset of the island nation’s worst currency crisis in decades, abstained from voting for the agreement in a vote taken in parliament in April.

While the SJB hasn’t quite had a drastic departure from its original pro-IMF stance, the party has been increasingly vocal of late about the socioeconomic impact of the deal.

SJB leader Premadasa earlier this year reportedly said a future SJB government would not be obligated to honour deals made by the incumbent government headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. MP de Silva explained later that what his party leader had meant was that Sri Lanka must negotiate terms favourable to the country when dealing with the IMF. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka cabinet okays appropriation bill for 2024 budget

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers had approved a draft Appropriation Act for 2024, the state information office said.

The Finance Minister’s proposal to gazette the bill and table it in parliament was approved by the cabinet.

Presenting the appropriation bill is the first stage of presenting a budget for 2024,

The appropriation bills set outs the expenditure plans for each ministry.

The budget proposals, made in November is called the second reading of the Appropriation Act. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s MEPA to get 28.5 mn rupees from Singaporean AEPW, for beach clean up

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) is to receive 5.7 million rupees a year, for five years, from Singapore-based marine waste solutions provider, Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), to maintain 8 beach cleaner machines.

The donation is meant to support MEPA clean coastal areas across Sri Lanka, using BeachTech Hydro Sweepy beach cleaner machines, previously donated by the organisation.

The oil industry-founded non-governmental organisation donated the 8 beach cleaners worth about US$180,000 to MEPA in the wake of the 2021 MV X-press Pearl ship disaster.

The machines manufactured by Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG, a German company, are effective at cleaning up plastic nurdles and other types of potentially harmful non-biodegradable waste, minimising human contact with hazardous materials.

As a significant amount of money is spent for the deployment of these machines for beach cleaning activities, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste has agreed to provide the funds for the upkeep of the machines for a period of five years.

With this financial donation, the Maritime Environment Protection Authority will be able to continue using these machines without interruption to clean identified beaches in the future. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

Continue Reading