Sri Lanka readies laws to curb hate speech, false news
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s government will introduce laws to curb hate speech and false news that threaten ethnic reconciliation and national security, in the aftermath of Easter bombings that killed more than 250 people.
According to a government statement, the Cabinet decided to amend the penal code to include the penalty of five years in prison and a million rupee ($5,670) fine for those found guilty of distributing false news.
The ministers, at their weekly meeting on Tuesday, also decided to take legal action against hate speech. A penalty will be announced later, after Parliament approves amendments to the penal code.
Tensions have been running high in the Buddhist-majority Indian Ocean island nation since seven suicide bombers struck two Catholic and one Protestant church and three luxury hotels on April 21.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out by a local radicalized Muslim group known as National Thowheed Jammath.
In the wake of the attacks, dozens of shops and homes belonging to minority Muslims have been burned. Muslims have been harassed in public places and subjected to hate comments.
Mob attacks on the community have killed at least one. Police have arrested several dozen suspects, whose court cases are pending.
During the mob attacks, the government has on several occasions temporarily blocked social media and messaging apps to prevent the spread of rumors, fearing that would lead to more violence.
The government has maintained high level of security across the country, with police and troops deployed to protect schools, churches and key government offices.