Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte 9th, June 2020 (GNP): Sri Lanka’s Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva Dayani Mendis has written a letter where she addressed to Michelle Bachelet the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and raised concerns regarding the allegations made in a press release (issued by the High Commissioner on 03 June 2020) regarding “clampdown” of freedom of expression during COVID-19. In the press release, a reference had been made to Sri Lanka as well along with Malaysia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar.
Michelle Bachelet has pointed out during a press release, the governments have arrested and prosecuted people for posting COvid-19 news through social media.
She emphasized freedom of speech during this novel pandemic. In return, a letter has been issued on the 8th of June 2020, which highlights that it has become essential for all countries to take measures to counter misinformation and disinformation to protect public health, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures are also in line with the consensus resolution on COVID-19 response adopted on 18 May 2020 at the 73 World Health Assembly (WHA), which instructs member states to provide the public with reliable information on COVID-19 and take measures to counter misinformation and disinformation.
Furthermore, the letter also clarified the content of the internal directive issued by Sri Lanka’s Acting Inspector General of Police on 01 April 2020. According to that letter, the directive had not been instructed to arrest persons for sharing fake messages, except in the case of violations of the laws of relevance on; obstructing a public servant in discharge of his/her duty, wrongful restraint of a public servant, use of criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his/her duty, disobeying a quarantine order and acts of disruption of public law & order and quarantine procedures using computer technology.
The letter also notes, the Government of Sri Lanka is handling the global health crisis effectively for the sake of their people’s health protection. The United Nations is urged to cooperate with the governments.
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