Sri Lanka has further improved its press freedom, and ranked in between Uganda and Zimbabwe in the latest version of the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
In the 2019 Index of the Reporters Without Borders - also known as Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) - Sri Lanka ranked at 126 out of 180 countries going up five notches from last year’s rank.
In 2018 index, the country ranked at 131 with 2017 coming in at 141. According to the 2019 report, Sri Lanka ranked among Uganda and Zimbabwe which ranked at 125 and 127 respectively.
The RSF index said President Maithripala Sirisena said he wanted to reopen the investigations into all the murders of journalists during the preceding ‘dark decade’ (2005-2015) when Mahinda Rajapaksa was president.
“Some progress has been made in the investigation into Lasantha Wickrematunga’s murder but almost all the others remain unpunished. In 2018, there were many cases of journalists being threatened, oppressed or denied access to certain regions by the security forces, especially in the north and east of the island, where Tamil journalists were targeted by the police and military,” it said.
“The culminating nightmare for many Sri Lankan journalists came in October 2018, when President Sirisena suddenly appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa – who had overseen egregious press freedom violations as President – as his Prime Minister.
Within hours of Rajapaksa’s appointment, members of his party stormed into several media outlets in order to take control by force. A supreme court decision finally brought an end to Sirisena’s political manoeuvre, one clearly prejudicial to journalism but this episode served as a stark reminder of Sri Lankan press freedom’s vulnerability to political vicissitudes,” the report said.
As usual, Scandinavian countries dominated the first 10 ranks of the index. Norway top the rankings followed by Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand, Jamaica, Belgium and Costa Rica.
Some neighbours ranked way below Sri Lanka with India at 140, Pakistan at 142 and Bangladesh at 150. However, Afghanistan was ranked at 121, Nepal at 106, Maldives at 98 and Bhutan at 80.
Turkmenistan was the country with the least press freedom as it was ranked at 180 followed by North Korea, Eritrea, China and Vietnam. (Lahiru Pothmulla)