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Vladimir Putin signs controversial internet bill into law; Sri Lanka bars preaching ideologies glorifying terrorism – Current Affairs

The sovereign internet bill aims to expand government control over the Internet.

May 2, 2019 15:35 IST
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Vladimir Putin signs controversial internet bill into law

Story 1- Russian President Vladimir Putin signs controversial internet bill into law

President Vladimir Putin on May 1, 2019 signed a new measure into law that will allow Russian authorities to isolate the country's internet from the rest of the world and create a new national network.

The ‘sovereign internet’ bill aims to expand government control over the Internet. Russian lawmakers insist the new law is necessary to ensure the security of Russia's online networks, while critics argue that the vaguely worded bill gives new censorship powers to government monitors.

Objective

The new law aims to protect Russia from foreign online restrictions by creating a "sustainable, secure and fully functioning" local internet.

Key Highlights

The text of the new law was published on May 1 but it will not come into effect until November 2019.

The key measures of the bill include creating technology to monitor internet routing and steering Russian internet traffic away from foreign servers allegedly to prevent a foreign country from shutting it down.

As per the authors of the initiative, Russia must ensure the security of its networks after US President Donald Trump unveiled a new American cybersecurity strategy in 2018 that said that Russia had carried out cyber attacks with impunity.

However, the bill has been decried by rights groups. Thousands of people recently rallied in Russia against this bill and other bills, which according to critics aim to restrict information and communication online.

What do the critics say?

Over ten International rights organisations called on Russia to scrap the internet bill last week.

According to critics, the bill would create a system that gives the authorities the capacity to block access to parts of the Internet in Russia. The blocking would be extrajudicial and non-transparent.

Further, under the new law, the Russian Internet access providers will need to ensure that their networks have the technical means for "centralised traffic control" to counter potential threats.

This control will pass notably to the Russian FSB security service and the telecoms and media monitoring agency Roskomnadzor, which is often accused of arbitrarily blocking content on the web.

Other Controversial Bills

Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2019 signed controversial laws that would allow courts to fine and briefly jail people for showing disrespect towards authorities and block media for publishing fake news.

The laws are a part of Russia’s ongoing clampdown on media and internet freedom that has seen people jailed for sharing humorous memes.

Besides, in recent years, the Russian authorities have blocked online sites and content linked to the opposition, as well as internet services that fail to cooperate with them, including the Dailymotion video platform, the Linkedin online social networking site and the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

Background

While Russia's internet has faced restrictions in the past, it has tilted hard in the direction of greater domestic censorship in recent years.

Activists fear that an independent Russian internet would involve the creation of a national firewall to monitor and censor content passing in and out of the country.

Story 2- Sri Lanka bars preaching religious, radical ideologies glorifying terrorism

The Sri Lankan Government has issued orders preventing any person from preaching religious, extremist or radical ideologies that glorify terrorism.

The order also banned any foreigner from preaching any such ideology and few persons involved in it have been deported.

While making the announcement, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the whole world should unite as one to face terrorism. He further stated that his government hoped to cooperate with all countries that oppose terrorism to share intelligence and expertise.

Impact

Following the order, the peace TV owned by Muslim Cleric Zakir Naik has been banned and taken off the air by all cable and satellite networks. The channel is already banned in several countries including India.

Sri Lankan police releases pictures of suicide bombers

Sri Lankan police on May 1, 2019 released the names and pictures of the nine suicide bombers involved in the Easter day attacks that killed at least 253 people including 42 foreigners.

As per the police, the attack was led by Zahran Cassim who caused suicide blast at Shangrila hotel in Colombo.

The Sri Lankan Government had appointed a special committee to probe the April 21 attacks. The committee has submitted its interim report to President Maithripala Sirisena who said that he will take immediate necessary action on it after discussing it with the Attorney General.

Background

On April 21, on the occasion of Easter, nine suicide bombers carried out a series of blasts at eight locations including three churches and three five-star hotels.

Serial explosions were reported from three churches - St Anthony's Church in Colombo, St Sebastian's in Katuwapitiyan and Zion church in Batticaloa and three five-star hotels, the Shangrila, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.

Besides this, an improvised explosive device was detected and diffused near the departure area of Bandaranaike International Airport late evening on April 21. The Sri Lankan police also found 87 bomb detonators at the main bus station in Colombo.

Following this, Sri Lankan police and armed forces launched countrywide surveillance and over 160 people have been taken into custody so far.

The Islamic State has claimed the responsibility of the attacks, but the government has blamed the local Islamist extremist group, National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ). The nation has now banned NTJ and a splinter group linked to the ISIS.

The attacks are the first major attack on the Indian Ocean Island since the end of a civil war 10 years ago.

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