Apr 18, Colombo: According to a leading survey, Sri Lanka showed significant improvement in press freedom this year ranking 5 notches higher than last year in the World Press Freedom Index 2019.
The annual World Press Freedom Index for 2019 compiled by Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Sri Lanka 126th out of 180 countries climbing 5 notches from 131st in 2018. The overall global score improved to 39.61 this year from 41.37 in 2018 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 during the preceding dark decade (2005-2015) when Mahinda Rajapaksa was president.
The media watchdog said some progress has been made in the investigation into Lasantha Wickrematunge's murder, but almost all the others remain unpunished.
It noted that although the government also said that journalists would no longer have to fear reprisals when they covered sensitive subjects, 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, according to RSF.
RSF says 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 maneuver, one clearly prejudicial to journalism, but this episode served as a stark reminder of Sri Lankan press freedom's vulnerability to political vicissitudes," the press freedom organization commented.
The RSF says the Press Freedom Index, which evaluates the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories every year, shows that an intense climate of fear has been triggered - one that is prejudicial to a safe reporting environment.
Only 24 percent of the 180 countries and territories are classified as "good" while Sri Lanka is in a "Difficult Situation" among 29 percent of the countries.
Norway leads in this year's Index for the third year running, followed by Finland, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Denmark in that order. At the other end of the Index, Turkmenistan is the last at 180th preceded by North Korea, Eritrea, China and Vietnam in the order.