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Online Safety & Broadcasting Regulatory Commission laws don’t meet international standards – UN

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Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations have expressed concerns over the proposed Online Safety Act and Broadcasting Regulatory Commission Act.

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression  Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, and Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Ana Brian Nougrères, expressed their concerns via a statement to the Sri Lankan government. 

They note that the Online Safety Act and Broadcasting Regulatory Commission Act do not meet the requirements of international law and standards.

They noted that there are potential violations of the rights to privacy, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly and of association as protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), acceded to by Sri Lanka. 

In terms of the Online Safety Act, they said that many provisions appear vague and overly broad and may therefore fail to meet the requirements of the ICCPR.

The statement added that the proposed law may severely limit the scope of online expression and may pose major barriers and threats to any individuals, especially journalists, human rights defenders and civil society organisations who may be critical of the government.

They added that the bill seems to be directed at people living in Sri Lanka and at the diaspora, with severe adverse effects on the freedom of expression of a very wide range of individuals.

On the proposed Broadcasting Regulatory Commission Act , the Special Rapporteurs said that Commission’s appointment process, if implemented in its current form, may thus give the executive the ability to punish, and/or deny licenses to media outlets that do not have a favourable view of the Government.

They stressed that it is essential that the oversight mechanism be an autonomous body, independent from any pressure or political ties.

The statement added that to protect freedom of expression, international standards require States to respect the freedom of the media.

It added that States have an obligation to refrain from engaging in indirect forms of censorship, such as the abuse of controls over newsprint, radio frequencies or infrastructure used to disseminate media content and ensure the independence of bodies which exercise regulatory powers over the media.

The Special Rapporteurs encourage the withdrawal, public consultation and substantial review of key aspects of both the proposed Online Safety Act and the Broadcasting Regulatory Commission Act.

(newsfirst.lk)

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School outdoor activities suspended over soaring temperatures

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The Education Ministry has instructed all respective school authorities to refrain from making students participate in strenuous outdoor activities until Friday (March 01) at schools as temperatures are expected to rise further.

Accordingly, Sports Day events, sports practices or any other scheduled outdoor activities are urged to be suspended for the time being.

Provincial and zonal authorities of education have been instructed to brief school principals about the matter, the ministry said in a press release.

In addition, school administrations are required to comply with the health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry.

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Court suspends divestiture process of SLT & Lanka Hospitals

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The Court of Appeal yesterday (27) issued an interim order preventing authorities from proceeding with the divestiture process of Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, until March 12.

Three Petitions were filed for Sri Lanka Telecom PLC including by Lyca Mobiles, and S.M.R. M company, while two petitions were filed for Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC including by Lyca Leasing Holdings.

Upon the oral submissions made by President’s Counsel Kuvera De Zoysa, Court of Appeal Justice D.N. Samarakoon issued notices on respondents, returnable for March 12.

The petitioners named Minister of Finance Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe, the members of the special Cabinet-appointed negotiating committee for the purpose of selecting pre-qualified bidders for the strategic divestiture pertaining to 51.34% shares of Lanka Hospitals PLC and several others as respondents.

Kuvera De Zoysa, PC with Raslka Dissanayake, Sajana de Zoysa, Dinusha Pathirana and Shablr Huzalr instructed by Sanath Wijewardane appeared for the petitioners.

The petitioners had informed the court that they had submitted bids per the required criteria for the divestiture of the Sri Lankan Government’s shares of 50.23% in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC and 51.34% in Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC.

The petitioners alleged that, however, the Cabinet of Ministers had rejected the bids without providing any clear explanations, adding that the decision was against the law.

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Lankan convict in Gandhi assassination case passes away

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Santhan alias T Suthendiraraja, a Sri Lankan national who was one of the six convicts released in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, died on Wednesday morning at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital (RGGH) in Chennai.

Santhan, who was released by the Indian Supreme Court in November 2022, was kept at the special camp near the Tiruchirapalli Central Prison.

Last week, the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Chennai issued an order to deport Santhan to Sri Lanka, however, he was admitted to the RGGH for treatment for a kidney-related ailment.

Addressing the reports, E Thenirajan, Dean, RGGH, said that based on the directions of the Tiruchirapalli district collector, Santhan was admitted to the hospital on January 27.

Thenirajan said a team of doctors were treating him at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and constantly monitoring him. He said Santhan was diagnosed with cryptogenic cirrhosis or a liver disease.

“He suffered a setback to his health yesterday (Tuesday) night. He had lost consciousness and we were providing treatment. Around 4.30 am today (Wednesday), he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was revived following a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) procedure and was on ventilator support. However, he failed to respond to further treatment and passed away at 7.50 am,” he said.

Thenirajan said they would carry out the post-mortem procedures now and take further measures to send his body to Sri Lanka.

According to court documents, Santhan is believed to have fled then strife-torn Sri Lanka in 1991 and reached India by boat, along with Sivarasan, who led the assassination team and was never caught alive, and a few others. According to the Supreme Court order, Santhan’s role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was direct and active.

Santhan was initially sentenced to death for his involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, however, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in November 2022, along with five other convicts, after spending over three decades in prison.

(The Indian Express)

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