- Ban imposed around midnight yesterday was lifted last afternoon
- BASL, HRCSL, PUCSL object to social media ban
- Namal Rajapaksa too voiced concerns about ban
- BASL said social media is a vital aspect of freedom of expression of the people
The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) lifted a ban it had imposed on social media networks last afternoon after the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and members of the public slammed the move.
The TRC announced the restrictions starting midnight on Sunday, saying it was acting on the advice of the Ministry of Defence.
The move seems to have caught those in Government too by surprise with Namal Rajapaksa who is the State Minister of Digital Technology and Entrepreneur Development, saying he would never condone the blocking of social media and urged the authorities to be more progressive and reconsider the decision.
The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) also requested the TRC to restore all social media platforms as it is unable to inform electricity consumers of impending power cuts.
The BASL in its statement said that social media is a vital aspect of the freedom of expression of the people – as important as the traditional media such as radio, television, and the print media. The ban on social media is the modern-day equivalent of closing down a television channel or a newspaper.
“This ban has clearly been imposed to thwart the fundamental right of the people of Sri Lanka, the freedom of expression including speech and publication which is unacceptable,” BASL said in a statement.
It said the ban also has the effect of stifling the thought process of the people which is protected under Article 10 of the Constitution which guarantees to the people the freedom of thought, conscience and religion which is not restricted by any provision of the Constitution.
The BASL statement observed that even members of the Cabinet of Ministers have expressed their views against the ban, and cited a recent case of U.N.S.P. Kurukulasuriya, Convenor, Free Media Movement, and J.K.W. Jayasekara v Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, where the Supreme Court quoted with approval the following passages found in several decisions of Sri Lankan courts.
“The right to support or to criticise governments and political parties, policies and programmes is fundamental to the democratic way of life; …and democracy requires not merely that dissent be tolerated, but that it be encouraged,” “Criticism of the Government, and of political parties and policies, is per se, a permissible exercise of the freedom of speech and expression under Article14 (1) (a).”