Advisory Committee distances itself from contentious Online Safety Bill

Thursday, 19 October 2023 01:36 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

An Advisory Committee has distanced itself from the publicly available version of the controversial Online Safety Bill.

BASL Deputy President Nalinda Indatissa PC about the Committee which drafted the Online Safety Bill, stated that the current Bill is from the Ministry of Public Security and not from the Ministry of Justice.

He recalled that the Ministry of Justice appointed an “Advisory Committee” which Indatissa chaired in early 2021 to formulate proposals for a Bill titled “Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Bill.” 

This was an “Advisory Committee” which functioned with two Senior Additional Solicitors from the Attorney General’s Department, Legal Draftsman, ICTA, TRCSL, Ministry of Justice and other legal professionals.

“The Advisory Committee met several times to discuss a draft of the Online Manipulation Bill. The Committee was informed by the Justice Ministry that the draft prepared by the Legal Draftsman on 21 March 2022 was sent to the Police Department for their observations. This was done without the approval of the drafting Committee,” Indatissa said.

“Therefore, on 19 July 2022, when the Ministry of Justice sought to get the assistance of the Advisory Committee to amend the draft as per the observations of the Police Department, the Advisory Committee refused to do so,” he added.

Indatissa, as Chairman of the Advisory Committee informed the Justice Ministry by email dated 19 July 2022 that “they are not in a position to take part in any discussion or committee to confer any investigative powers on the CID or police, which would be detrimental to the welfare and interests of citizens.” Thereafter the Justice Ministry Committee ceased to function.

President’s Counsel Indatissa expressed concern that the Ministry of Public Security has released some names of an Advisory Committee that functioned under the Ministry of Justice, a Committee which had nothing to do with the latest Bill gazetted by the Ministry of Public Security.

“This bill was not even discussed with stakeholders in the draft stages. Therefore he said the Ministry of Public Security should take ownership and responsibility for this latest version of the Online Safety Bill.