The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has warned the public against using social media platforms such as Facebook to spread hatred targeting communities.
President of the BASL Kalinga Indatissa was quoted in a press statement today as saying that there are certain groups operating with vested interests to instigate racial tensions.
“Whether it’s community A, B, C or D, it is wrong. The same rules must apply to everyone. As a multi-ethnic country we must learn to respect each other and live peacefully,” he said.
Speaking on the legal action that can be taken against perpetrators spreading hate speech on social media, Indatissa said that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that no person shall propagate war or advocate national racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
He noted that there is a misconception in the local Police division that a publication on social media cannot be dealt with, but that is wrong.
“Because similarly, if a person is found guilty for publishing or making oral defamation against a party or community, a Facebook post is equal to a publication and therefore, we can bring people to justice under the ICCPR. The only difference is the method of proof, and as a practice the relevant authorities should start filing test cases,” he said.
The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the ICCPR on 15th December 1966 and the Act came into effect on 23rd March 1976. Sri Lanka acceded to the Covenant on 11th June 1980.
Indatissa explained that when a country becomes a signatory to the Covenant under the United Nations, there is a requirement for the country to draft its domestic law to suit the Covenant and Sri Lanka passed the ICCPR act in 2007, recognising fundamental rights of all Sri Lankans.
“I firmly believe that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic country, at least for the last 700 years, and it is a fact that no one can deny. We are all one and if we are all one, we must learn to live either through the operation of law or through our own human conduct,” concluded Indatissa, citing that the media has a huge role to play in any nation and the role of the media is to bring people together in the context of a multi-ethnic society.