Mangala Bats For Internet Freedom Despite Website Ban: "Role Of The State Is to Guarantee These Rights"

Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday fully backed the freedom of internet and its seamless contribution to democratic development.

The statement came just weeks after the government bodies engineered a ban on the website 'LankaEnews' - an online platform harshly critical of President Maithripala Sirisena. 

Addressing a UNESCO sponsored event in Colombo on ending impunity on attacks against media, Samaraweera said, "internet and social media platforms are empowering citizens to fully use their right to freedom of expression and access to information to disseminate opinions, information and news. New technology is an enabler of democratic development. However, this also means that we have to find effective ways to deal with negative aspects such as disinformation, propaganda, and hate speech. These are real challenges that we must find ways to deal with, including through legal means, without suppressing peoples’ right to freedom of expression, dialogue, debate and access to information."

"The role of the state is to guarantee and further these rights," Samaraweera said, delivering his speech. 

The Minister also added, "it is an occasion for us in Sri Lanka to remind ourselves, and acknowledge, that our country used to be a most unsafe place for journalists, not too long ago. It gives us the important opportunity to reflect on our past, and resolve to never allow a recurrence of that dangerous past in our country, for journalists, ever again."

Second,  it is an occasion for us in Sri Lanka to recognize, that while we have succeeded to a large extent in creating the safe space required for freedom of expression, we must keep on working hard to sustain and safeguard this space, and that we still have a long way to go in terms of completing investigations into past crimes, including the murder of journalists in the past."

"It is also an occasion for us in Sri Lanka to recognize and acknowledge that justice is crucial and essential, because impunity will leave open the danger of the recurrence of the heinous crimes that occurred in the past. Therefore, this is an important occasion for us locally, to renew our commitment to justice, in memory of all the journalists who have been silenced, and in recognition of the importance of a free and independent media, for advancing peace, development, and good governance in our country," Samaraweera added. 


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