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New legislation to prevent sharing of false information over telephones

By: Staff Writer

May 13, Colombo (LNW): The much awaited and long overdue bill to amend the Telecommunications Regulatory Act after 28 years was presented to the Parliament State Minister for Technology, Kanaka Herath said.

The Cabinet of Ministers approved the publication of the draft bill for the amended Sri Lanka Telecommunication Regulatory in the Government gazette and present the same in the Parliament for approval.

“The move follows the receipt of Attorney General clearance for the draft bill, which has been carefully prepared in all three languages by the Legal Draftsman,” Cabinet Co-Spokesman and Minister Bandula Gunawardena said at the post-Cabinet meeting media briefing.

The decision to amend the Sri Lanka Telecommunication Regulatory Act No. 25 of 1991 was initially approved by the Cabinet in their meeting held on 1 January 2024.

He also assured that this piece of legislation has no connection to the previously approved Online Safety Act.

The Sri Lanka Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill, containing clauses aimed at penalising persons who spread false information via telephone leading to public disturbance, was introduced to Parliament on Friday.

As per the bill presented to Parliament, by Leader of the House Susil Premajayantha, persons persistently making telephone calls or transmitting messages to cause annoyance or inconvenience without reasonable excuse may face fines up to Rs. 100,000 and disconnection of their telephone connections.

Moreover, those deliberately making calls or sending messages to incite public commotion or disrupt public tranquillity may incur fines up to Rs. 1 million or imprisonment, with continuous offenders facing fines of Rs. 1,500 per day of offence.

Furthermore, persons providing misleading or false information to telecommunication officers may face fines up to Rs. 100,000, with telecommunication apparatus used for false information being forfeited to the State upon magistrate order.

The bill also empowers the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to oversee submarine cables in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters, with assistance from the Sri Lanka Navy, Department of Coast Guard, and Sri Lanka Police.

Additionally, provisions in the bill enable radio service providers to engage in interconnection agreements.

However, concerns have been raised by industry experts on the legislation which is to be amended after 28 years as the Government has not called for any public consultations on the matter. 

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