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US Ambassador voices concerns over Online Safety Bill, emphasises procedural flaws and free speech implications

February 20, Colombo (LNW): The United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, has articulated significant apprehensions regarding the recently enacted Online Safety Bill, delineating three principal areas of concern.

The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka raised concerns on procedural shortcomings, underlying intentions, and the potential ramifications on freedom of expression against the enactment of the said Act.

Chung underscored the perceived deficiencies in the bill’s formulation process, noting a lack of comprehensive engagement with stakeholders, a factor contributing to widespread perception of its flawed nature.

Expressing reservations about the bill’s expansive scope and definitions, ostensibly designed to combat online offenses such as the dissemination of harmful content and gender-based violence, Ambassador Chung cautioned against the possibility of its misuse to curtail lawful expression.

Furthermore, she raised doubts about the bill’s implementation process, notwithstanding ongoing amendment initiatives.

Chung called into question the effectiveness of these amendments in mitigating the anticipated chilling effect on online discourse.

The US Ambassador further stressed that the concerns voiced by Sri Lankan citizens, technical experts, civil society organisations, legal professionals, the private sector, and journalists are paramount.

She urged the Sri Lankan government to prioritise attentiveness to the apprehensions expressed domestically, underscoring the significance of indigenous perspectives alongside international considerations.

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