The Sri Lankan government Wednesday decided to introduce a five-year jail term for those caught spreading fake news and hate speech on social media.
In a statement, the Sri Lanka government said the offenders will also be fined one million rupees ($5,715) and that the cabinet of ministers had approved the proposal by the acting justice minister. It did not immediately release a definition of the two offences, however, it said the penal code will be amended to introduce new penalties.
The government alleged that social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have been used to spread hate in a country where ethnic divisions still linger after decades of war.
The Sri Lankan government had shut down Internet access in March last year to prevent violence when anti-Muslim mobs killed three people and destroyed hundreds of homes, shops, vehicles and mosques.
A nine-day ban was imposed on social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp following the attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels by the ISIS killing 258 people and injuring over 500 others. Nine suicide bombers, including a woman, carried out a series of devastating blasts. Sri Lanka initially imposed the emergency on April 23 to crack down on the nine suicide bombers. Thirteen arrests have been made so far.