The Speaker of Parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana, officially endorsed the certificate on the Online Safety Bill today, February 1, 2024.
The bill had undergone thorough discussions and amendments during a two-day parliamentary debate held on January 23rd and 24th, ultimately garnering the necessary support for its passage.
The Online Safety Bill is poised to play a pivotal role in addressing contemporary challenges related to digital platforms and ensuring a secure online environment for all users. With the Speaker’s endorsement, the bill is now set to become law, marking a crucial milestone in Sri Lanka’s legislative efforts to regulate and safeguard the digital landscape.
Amnesty International says the Online Safety Bill, freshly passed in Sri Lanka parliament is a ‘major blow’ to human rights in the country. Commenting in this regard, Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, Regional Researcher for South Asia at the international rights organisation said this legislation is the ‘newest weapon in the government’s arsenal of tools’ that could be used to undermine freedom of expression and suppress dissent.
During the AmCham CXO Forum, United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie J Chung, emphasized the crucial need for transparent communication regarding legislative reforms, citing the recent passage of the Online Safety Bill as a pertinent example.
Highlighting concerns surrounding the Online Safety Bill, Ambassador Chung referred to a recent poll by the Centre for Policy Alternatives, revealing that over 70 percent of Sri Lankans were unaware of the bill before its passage. She expressed apprehension about the lack of public awareness, stressing that clear communication is essential for the success of any reform initiative.