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Sri Lanka Slips in World Press Freedom Rankings: Report Highlights Concerns

May 04, Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka has witnessed a notable decline in press freedom, plummeting fifteen spots to 150th in the 2024 World Press Freedom Index, an annual report published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Last year, the country held the 135th position out of 180 nations, indicating a concerning trend.

Comparatively, Pakistan ranks 152nd while India stands at 159th this year, underlining a broader challenge faced across the region.

The index evaluates countries based on the ability of journalists to operate freely and independently, shedding light on the state of media freedom worldwide.

Reporters Without Borders’ assessment of Sri Lanka highlights lingering issues stemming from the civil war that plagued the nation until 2009, coupled with unresolved cases of violence against journalists during the conflict. The report notes a media landscape lacking diversity and heavily influenced by prominent political factions, perpetuating risks for journalists in the country.

Despite legal provisions ostensibly safeguarding freedom of expression, the report underscores the absence of concrete protections for journalists. Furthermore, recent legislation granting the president the authority to appoint members to the Online Safety Commission has raised concerns. The commission, operating under the pretext of national security, possesses the power to censor dissenting voices on social media and breach source confidentiality.

Safety remains a paramount concern, with numerous journalists having fallen victim to violence or disappearance in past decades. While no journalist has been killed since 2015, past atrocities remain unresolved, perpetuating a climate of impunity.

The report highlights a troubling surge in attacks on journalists, particularly those based in regions with historical Tamil presence, where surveillance and harassment by authorities persist. Independent media outlets are often marginalized, exacerbating challenges faced by journalists operating in these areas.

Globally, the Asia-Pacific region emerges as one of the most perilous for journalists, with Myanmar, China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan among the top ten most dangerous countries for media personnel.

In contrast, Europe showcases relatively robust press freedom, with countries within the European Union leading the pack. Notably, Ireland’s drop in the rankings underscores challenges facing media freedom within the EU, while Germany ascends to the top ten countries.

The overall decline in political indicators has impacted the top performers, with Norway maintaining its position at the summit despite a dip in its political score. Conversely, Ireland’s descent in the EU rankings underscores mounting pressures faced by media outlets.

The report serves as a poignant reminder of the critical importance of upholding press freedom globally, urging concerted efforts to safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the vital role of journalists in fostering democratic societies.

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