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Imminent rights violations through the proposed Data Protection Law in Sri Lanka: YJA writes to UN expert

Image: Irene Khan is the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression since 1 August 2020.

In a letter to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Young journalists Association of Sri Lanka  has   request  to her undertake an analysis of the draft bill and it’s implications on rights and rule of law and make interventions with the Sri Lankan government to prevent any harmful effects.

15th February 2022

To: UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Dear Madam,

Re. Imminent rights violations through the proposed Data Protection Law in Sri Lanka

A draft law (bill) for Personal Data Protection was gazetted on 25th November 2021 and tabled in parliament on 20th January 2022. The English copy of the draft law is annexed herewith.

The gazette and draft bill came to our notice quite late and article 121 of the constitution provides only a week to challenge a draft bill that’s tabled in parliament at the Supreme Court. We attempted to challenge some provisions of the bill by e-filing a petition on 27th January and filing a hardcopy petition on 28th January, but both petitions were dismissed on technicality of being delayed.

Subsequently, we sent a letter to all Members of Parliament, Right to Information Commission, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Attorney General and other relevant authorities about our concerns on 2nd February 2022. The original letter in Sinhalese and an English translation is annexed.

In this letter, we have set out in detail our concerns and suggestions to improve the bill. Amongst the most serious concerns we have is that the draft law compromises rights of journalists, limits the enjoyment of right to information and grants powers to conduct inquiries and issue punishments by one and same institution that is not a court of law.

The Letter: YJA letter on Data Protection Laws – 02Feb2022 (English translation)

A critique of the draft bill is also published in the editorial of the Sunday Times newspaper of 13th February 2022, one of the most popular English Sunday newspapers in Sri Lanka.

Unconfirmed information received by us indicates that the parliamentary debate on the draft law may happen on 22nd February 2022 after which it is likely to be enacted as a law, which cannot be challenged in a Sri Lankan court.

We kindly request you to undertake an analysis of the draft bill and it’s implications on rights and rule of law and make interventions with the Sri Lankan government to prevent any harmful effects.

Please feel free to contact the undersigned for any additional information.

Sincerely yours,

Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association.

Contact details
Email – [email protected] / [email protected] / [email protected]
Tel – 0710661417
Postal Address – 176/3, Oruthota, Gampaha, Sri Lanka.

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