Authorities in Sri Lanka must ensure unhindered access to the internet, especially in times of crisis. Access Now and over 40 human rights organizations, and members of the #KeepItOn coalition are calling on the government of Sri Lanka to maintain unfettered access to the internet for all throughout the country’s ongoing economic and political crisis.
“Access to the internet is crucial to communicate and exchange information freely,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “Hampering access in any manner, as the Sri Lankan government has recently done by blocking access to social media, violates human rights and exacerbates the impact of the crisis.”
Furthermore, the telecommunications regulator must cease accepting unlawful, disproportionate orders from the Ministry of Defense or other agencies to implement internet shutdowns, and, in turn, relevant authorities including internet and telecommunications service providers must take a stand, and push back against these same orders.
On April 3, the Sri Lankan Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, on the orders of the Ministry of Defence, shut down social media services, in response to widespread public protests against the president’s declaration of a state of emergency. This accompanied a recent spike in censorship, information regulation, and isolation from the outside world — all markers of a government’s descent into digital authoritarianism.