COLOMBO (PTI) – The Sri Lankan government, on Friday, 26 April, warned that anyone found guilty of spreading fake news and false propaganda about the Easter Sunday bombings that claimed 253 lives may be imprisoned for 3 to 5 years, following a growing number of incidents of public disturbance.
Sri Lanka was rocked by a series of bomb blasts on Sunday, 21 April, at three Catholic churches and as many luxury hotels, the deadliest attacks since a devastating three-decade long civil war ended in 2009.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the terror attacks that killed 253 people, but the government has blamed the local Islamist extremist group National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) for the bombings.
The national media centre, in a statement, said that action will be taken against those who spread fake news and false propaganda regarding the situation in the island, Daily News reported.
It said a number of incidents of public disturbance were reported from several parts of the country due to the circulation of false information.
The police and the security forces have taken measures to take strict legal action against persons circulating such false information through websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
The circulation of such false information creates disturbance and panic among the general public and also misleads the security forces, the report said, adding that the public is requested to refrain from involving in such activities.
Action will be taken against persons involved in circulating false information under the Emergency Regulations and anyone who is found guilty of committing such offences may be imprisoned to 3 to 5 years, it said.
Shortly after the bombings, the Sri Lankan, the government took the drastic decision to block social media.
To stop the spread of “false news reports”, Facebook, Facebook-owned whatsApp and Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Viber were all banned.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe asked the people to “please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation”.
That plea was followed up with an outright ban on a series of social media sites. The government said the block would be temporary, but remain in place “until investigations were concluded”.
Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million which is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions, dominated by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.
Muslims account for 10 per cent of the population and are the second-largest minority after Hindus. Around seven per cent of Sri Lankans are Christians.