Sri Lanka has climbed five places in the press freedom rankings as per the 2019 index released by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF).
Sri Lanka was ranked 141st among 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. However, in 2018, it jumped ten places to 131st position, which has been further improved this year as well.
According to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Sri Lanka is placed in the 126th position out of 180 countries with a global score of 39.61 which is a difference of -1.76 from the previous year.
The report highlighted that while some progress has been made in the investigation into journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga’s murder, almost all the others remain unpunished.
“The government also said that journalists would no longer have to fear reprisals when they covered sensitive subjects, yet the reality is somewhat different.”
“In 2018, there were many cases of journalists being threatened, aggressed 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,” the report said.
It also claimed that the incidents of party members storming into several media outlets within hours of Mahinda Rajapaksa being appointed as Prime Minister in October 2018 served as a stark reminder of “Sri Lankan press freedom’s vulnerability to political vicissitudes.”
The report measures the level of media freedom by looking at the level of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship.
Among the other South Asian countries on press freedom, Sri Lanka is behind Bhutan (80th), Maldives (98th) and Nepal (106). Afghanistan is ranked 121st, India 140th, Pakistan 142nd and Bangladesh 150th.
For the first time in three years, North Korea is not ranked last in the annual World Press Freedom Index. Instead, it is Turkmenistan that has captured the bottom spot this year. Once again, Norway topped the global ranking, followed by Finland and Sweden.
The report states that the 2019 World Press Freedom Index shows how hatred for journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear. The number of countries regarded safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media, it adds.
The hostility towards journalists expressed by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious acts of violence that have fuelled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists, adds the report.