In January 2024, the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act, which is intended to replace the existing Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), was presented in parliament. Critics, including various rights groups, contend that the new legislation is significantly more repressive than the PTA it aims to supersede. In response, several petitions have been filed by opposition parties and rights organizations before the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality and provisions of the bill.
Also in January 2024, the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the controversial Online Safety Bill with a 108-62 majority vote, despite opposition and criticism from rights groups. The legislation establishes an Online Safety Commission endowed with broad powers, which enables it to instruct individuals and internet service providers to remove vaguely defined “prohibited statements” from online platforms. The bill also prohibits the communication of false statements deemed threats to national security, public health, public order, or promoting hostility among different groups. Further, the Online Safety Commission wields arbitrary authority to determine what constitutes ‘false’ or ‘harmful’ online speech. This grants the Commission the ability to remove content, restrict and prohibit internet access, and prosecute individuals and organizations. Offenses carry significant penalties, including hefty fines and imprisonment for up to five years.