HRCSL tells TRC to ensure freedom of expression is protected

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has told the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) to ensure freedom of expression is protected in future.

In a letter to Austin Fernando, Secretary to the President and Chairman of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC), the Chairperson of the HRCSL Dr. Deepika Udagama said that HRCSL had received several complaints from the public regarding the restrictions on social media even after the violence in the Kandy District had been brought under control.

Udagama said the Commission 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.

“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,” Udagama said.

Udagama also reiterated 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. (Colombo Gazette)