Gagging the Web, The discussion
The discussion we organized with CPA, went OK. Some thought there isn’t really much point in worying something as trivial as accidental internet censorship. Others argued it will give one more legitimate way of arresting people and hence should be opposed. Indi.ca has a post based on the discussion. Here’s an excerpt (ironically censored):
Under Emergency Law (the main tenets being the absence of) Sri Lankans derive their rights not from the Constitution or Institutions but basically from being ignored by the powers that be. If no one notices you, then you can basically do whatever you want. If someone (with power) does notice, they can basically do whatever they want to you. Your rights exist not as a concrete thing but more in the sense that a rabbit has the right to run around as long as the foxes don’t see it. In Sri Lanka we have the added benefit (over animals) that someone might notice and file a Fundamental Rights petition and some other random [person] in the Supreme Court might have mercy on you. That decision too has no particular correlation to written law, again depending on how this particular person feels.
That is, and not to be pessimistic, I see limited purpose in worrying about laws when the people in power generally do whatever the [fudge] they want. It’s pretty tooth and fang out here and what limits their tyranny is not law, but their own technical incompetence. That is, sometimes they propose stuff they simply can’t do – like banning Internet pornography or requiring a record of every video transmitted over the Internet. Those laws don’t get enforced simply because they’re unenforceable. However, if the government can do something (as in, they are physically able) they generally will. Any justice you get will be after your business and freedom are taken away and is thus more of a historical artifact than justice per say. For example, the shut-down of CBNSat had no legal basis and I think was ruled such, but months later, after the business had died. Tissanayakam (the jailed journalist) may get a ruling someday, but he’s been in jail for months now.
The background note Sanjana Hattotuwa presented is now up on his blog.