Colombo (AFP) – Sri Lanka will clamp down on Internet hate speech following deadly anti-Muslim riots said to have been fueled by social media sites, the military said Monday.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse has asked the law and order ministry to deal with racial and religious hatred being spread using Facebook and Twitter, military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya said.
“There are some Facebook pages against Buddhism, but more pages against Islam,” Wanigasooriya told AFP. “Some try to project every Muslim as a jihadist. It is wrong and it must stop.”
He said Rajapakse, the powerful younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapakse, had asked law enforcement authorities to work out a “practical way” of dealing with online hate speech.
Anti-Muslim riots in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka two weeks ago left at least four people dead and 80 seriously wounded. Hundreds of shops and homes were also destroyed in the tourist resort towns of Alutgama and Beruwala.
Police have arrested eight suspects accused of looting during the riots, along with 55 others who have been linked to the violence.
The hardline Buddhist Force (BBS), which denies instigating attacks against Muslims, said last week that its social media pages had been blocked by service providers and their websites had been attacked by hackers.
“Our Facebook pages have been taken down,” a BBS spokesman told AFP. “We are also facing cyber-attacks and that is not something new. But we will be up and running soon.”
There is no official censorship in Sri Lanka, but government authorities routinely block access to opposition and dissident websites.
However, the blocked sites can still be accessed through proxy servers based outside the country.
Sri Lanka’s media as well as rights groups have accused the police of failing to prevent extremist Buddhist mobs attacking Muslims, who make up 10 percent of the country’s 20 million population.
The influential Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, an umbrella group of 48 Muslim organisations, petitioned police chief N. K. Illangakoon last week expressing fears of more violence against them during the holy month of Ramadan.
Muslims as well as moderate Buddhists have pressed for action against the BBS, which is seen as enjoying the patronage of senior government figures.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
WATCH: Civil rights icon John Lewis drops the hammer on Trump — and has no qualms about calling his remarks racist
On Tuesday, the fallout continued from remarks President Trump made telling four freshman congresswomen -- and women of color -- that they should go back to their own countries.
While some prominent Republicans criticized the president, they stopped short of calling his comments racist.
MSNBC reported Tuesday that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a civil rights icon -- deemed Trump's remarks racist.
"This is not any, any way for the president of the United States of America to be attacking to be saying what he's saying about these young women," Lewis said.
"It's just dead wrong. We must use everything in a nonviolent way to say that it's wrong."
Trump believes white nationalism is a winning strategy — because Fox News tells him so
Donald Trump thinks white nationalism is going to win him the 2020 election. This much is clear. Trump's racist Twitter rant on Sunday — in which he suggested that four nonwhite congresswomen, three of whom were born in the United States, are "originally" from somewhere else and should therefore "go back" — might have seemed at first like a spontaneous eruption of racist rage from the simmering bigot in the White House.
Soon, however, it became clear that this was strategic. Trump thinks it's a winning move to echo the claims of David Duke and other white nationalists who believe the United States is for white people. He justified his racism by saying that "many people agree with me," and by continuing to rave on Twitter about how the real purveyors of "racist hatred" are those who look askance at his embracing the rhetoric of Stormfront and the KKK.
‘White supremacy is a hell of a drug’: columnist explains the GOP’s garbled response to Trump
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed comments he'd made telling four freshman congresswomen -- all American citizens and women of color -- to go back to their countries.
The comments set off a furor that the president was being outwardly racist.
“It's up to them. They can do what they want. They can leave, they can stay, but they should love our country,” the president told reporters Tuesday when he was asked about his remarks.
On CNN Tuesday, New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali explained how Donald Trump's comments -- and his Republican counterparts' refusal to call them racist -- is rooted in a dangerous white supremacy, or terror at the "browning of America."