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In recent years, governments worldwide have begun to regulate the online sphere, often resulting in laws that unduly restrict freedoms of expression, assembly, and the right to anonymity. The Sri Lankan government joined this regional wave and introduced the Online Safety Act No. 9 of 2024 which mandated an Online Safety Commission with sweeping powers to regulate the digital space. However, the absence of specific legislation in the preceding years has not prevented the authorities from weaponising existing laws to arbitrarily infringe on the freedom of expression in the online sphere.

This report studies the criminalisation of online expression in Sri Lanka through five thematic areas, including contempt of court, dissent and assembly, media freedom, ethno-religious conflict, and gender and sexual expression, and also discusses the Online Safety Act’s potential effects on infringing fundamental freedoms.


Table of contents

  1. Situating freedom of expression in Sri Lanka 
  2. Politics, culture and the law
  3. Methodology
  4. Dissent and assembly
  5. Media freedom
  6. Ethno-religious conflict
  7. Gender and sexual expression
  8. Contempt of court
  9. Online safety act and the future of expression
  10. References


Read the full report here.