Russia backs Sri Lankan government over Online Safety Bill; calls matter purely internal

COLOMBO (TIP): Russia has backed the Sri Lankan government’s decision to adopt the controversial Online Safety Bill, saying that the matter was purely an internal matter for the island nation and any kind of interference over it will be unacceptable. Sri Lankan Parliament on January 24 approved with amendments the controversial Online Safety Bill that seeks to regulate online content amid criticism from the opposition that claimed it will stifle freedom of speech. The new legislation would lead to the establishment of the Online Safety Commission which is empowered to make punitive rulings on offenses.
A false statement online would be liable, if convicted, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand Sri Lankan rupees.
In a statement, Russian Ambassador in Sri Lanka Levan Dzhagaryan said that Russia was closely following the situation about the Online Safety Bill in the country. His comments came in the backdrop of the US envoy here saying that she was concerned about the potential impact of the bill.
“We are following the situation with the Online Safety Bill in Sri Lanka, which has been adopted by the Parliamentary majority in all readings recently.
We also take notice of all comments and reactions on this legislature both from the domestic political sphere and among the foreign powers accredited in this country, “he said.
He also said that it is a purely internal issue of Sri Lanka.
“We suppose that regulations of the online sphere are solely domestic issues of the Republic of Sri Lanka. In this regard we want to highlight that in our point of view, any interference into this internal issue from aside by the foreign powers is irrelevant and unacceptable,” he said. By contrast the US Ambassador in Colombo Julie Chung said that the US was concerned about the potential impact of the bill.
In a post on X, Chung said: “The US remains concerned about the potential impact of Sri Lanka’s online safety bill. She said the bill jeopardised democratic values. The US urges Sri Lanka to prioritise transparency and ensure any legislation does not stifle the voices of its people,”she said.
The Sri Lankan Opposition, which called the bill as undemocratic as it would hamper freedom of expression, has vowed to repeal it when in power.
Human Rights Watch condemned the bill as one which clamped free expression of public views in Sri Lanka’s election year. The Asian Internet Coalition said the bill was a blow to Sri Lanka’s efforts to bolster the digital economy. The government was accused of rushing through the bill without sufficient public debate. (PTI)

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