(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –According to a leading survey, Sri Lanka showed significant improvement in press freedom last year ranking 10 notches higher than last year in the World Press Freedom Index 2018.
The annual World Press Freedom Index for 2018 compiled by Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Sri Lanka 131st out of180 countries climbing 10 notches from 141st in 2017. The overall global score improved to 41.37 this year from 44.34 in 2017 on a 0-100 scale with 100 being the worst.
The Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.
The RSF, questioning whether impunity will ever end in the country in its country specific statement on Sri Lanka, noted that President Maithripala Sirisena after being sworn in as president in January 2015 said he wanted to reopen all the investigations into murders of journalists.
While some progress has been made in the investigation into Lasantha Wickrematunga’s murder, almost all the others are still unpunished, the RSF observed.
“The new government also said that journalists no longer had anything to fear because of their political views or their coverage of sensitive subjects such as corruption and human rights violations by the military. But attacks on journalist Freddy Gamage in June 2016 and in early 2018 fueled the doubts of both the public and media freedom defenders,” it said.
According to the media watchdog, the Tamil media, often the target of attacks and censorship both during the civil war and after its official end in 2009, are still on their guard.
In March 2016, the ministry of parliamentary reform and mass media ordered all news websites to register with the government or become illegal.
“This vague and disproportionate directive immediately reminded the media and citizen journalists of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa�s censorship methods,” the statement said.
The media watchdog said the 2018 Index reflects growing animosity towards journalists. “Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism, pose a threat to any democracy,” the index report said.
In this year�s Index, Norway is first for the second year running, followed by Sweden, The Netherlands, Finland and Switzerland in that order. At the other end of the Index, North Korea is still last at 180th. Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China preceded North Korea in the index.
In the South Asian region, Bhutan at 94th, Nepal at 106th, Afghanistan at 118th and Maldives at 120th performed better than Sri Lanka while India was ranked 138, Pakistan 139 and Bangladesh 146.