Will ban social media if they don’t self-regulate: MS

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President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday he had discussed with a US based global institution regarding the issues that had arisen in the country due to social media and that if they were unable to control such issues, he would have to ban social media websites altogether like  some other countries had done.

“I summoned a team of experts who work in a global institution in the US that attend to issues pertaining to social media. I discussed with them the influence of the social media has on social and national security, ethnic harmony, integrity of a family and so on because social media has influenced them badly. I also told the US experts that if they could not control what was going on in Sri Lanka, I would take steps to control misusing of social media notwithstanding whoever opposed,” he said.

He added that many other countries had prohibited social media that had resorted to illegal and anti-national acts in this manner.

“We have no issue with web sites as to who does the correct thing and provides good entertainment to the people and useful education to children,” he said.

Addressing a ceremony held yesterday to mark the opening of the new Courts Complex at Welisara, President Sirisena went on to say that the acts of crimes had increased with the advent of modern technology. The crimes which are being committed using computer, smartphones and social media network are on the rise.

There were protests when I took measures to block social media websites during the recent ethnic unrest took place in Kandy. But subsequently, there were accolades and gratitude for actions taken to curb social media platforms.

The IGP gave me a report upon my request on crimes induced by on line websites or social media. When I went through the report, I had goosebumps. Police officers told me that only 10% of crimes committed using modern technology is reported.

There were instances in the recent past where social media was used to influence Judges before the verdicts were delivered. Various fabricated allegations were levelled against Judges. These kinds of malicious campaigns had made the Judges distressed and perturbed. As politicians, we are used to mudslinging but not are the Judges.

A President is a politician. It is extremely inappropriate if a Magistrate or Chief Justice going behind politicians. I make nominations to the Constitutional Council (CC) only the list of names is sent to me by the Chief Justice. He sends me the names after consulting the Judicial Service Commission. There are instances where I consult the Attorney General when there were issues pertaining to nomination of judicial officers to the CC. Sometimes, High Court Judges complain to me on transfers and promotions given to junior ranked Judges over more experienced ones. They also say at times that it was difficult for them to go to the CJ or the JSC to air their grievances. That is why I ask the CJ and AG to create a system to address the grievances of judicial officers.

I was not elected as the Executive President after serving as Prime Minister like all the other Presidents in the past. The people in this country did not give me a mandate on January 8, 2015 not to get jobs but to restore law and order, democracy and independence of judiciary and press. I believe I have fulfilled two out of the three pledges. I have restored the rule of law, strengthened democratic institutions and created a free judiciary and media in the last three years.

President Sirisena said he was one of the most affected victims of social media mudslinging campaigns and said had these kinds of acts been committed during the previous regime, he or she would not have survived much longer.

“There are incidences of character assassinations, mudslinging and tarnishing people's image using social media. I am one of the most affected victims of social media mudslinging campaigns. If this kind of acts committed during the previous regime, he or she would not have survived much longer. Within days they would have been wiped out. But we don’t do this kind of acts and the social or main stream media enjoy the freedom enjoyed by them under this government to the fullest and sling as much mud at us maliciously and in most cruelest ways dishing out fabrications, misinterpretations, character assassinations, half-baked truths and absolute lies,” he emphasized.(Sandun A. Jayasekera)

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