Press Freedom under threat? Sri Lanka slips in World Press Freedom Index ranking

Press Freedom under threat? Sri Lanka slips in World Press Freedom Index ranking

Written by Lahiru Fernando

03 May, 2017 | 10:24 pm

Journalists around the world fight for the freedom to expose corruption, report persecution and tyranny. Today, May 3, is the International day for Press Freedom.

In Sri Lanka, this precious freedom has allowed journalists to report and expose cases of corruption at the highest level.

  • The Treasury Bond scam
  • The Mendis Distillery tax dodge
  • The Google Loon spectrum allocation scandal
  • The Investment irregularities for Horana Tyre Factory
  • The non-existent VW plant.

There is no democracy without the freedom to investigate, question and report.

But…, Is the freedom of speech, the freedom for information -provide and recieve- under threat?

There is an index which ranks countries on the level of freedom made available for journalists. This index include 180 countries all across the world.

Norway has claimed the top spot on the index with Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Jamaica, Belgium and Iceland taking the top 10 in that order respectively.

In this index, Sri Lanka ranks a low 141, the same ranking as 2016. Neighboring India ranks 136 while Pakistan has claimed the 139th position – 8 ranks higher than where they were in 2016.

All South Asian Countries except Bangladesh have ranked higher than Sri Lanka. Bhutan leads the list at 84.

Maldives is ranked at 117 – even in a backdrop where prominent blogger Yameen Rasheed was found dead at his Male apartment with multiple stab wounds recently.

The ranking on media freedom is based on;

  • An evaluation of pluralism
  • Independence of the media
  • Quality of legislative framework
  • Safety of journalists in the country.

Transparency International Sri Lanka issues a stark warning:

Processes are initiated to adopt two pieces of legislation, the Counter Terrorism and Media Council Bills.

If enacted without proper consultation with the media, these acts could be seen as restrictive legislation intended to obstruct the freedom of the press.

This would not improve Sri Lanka’s world ranking in world press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

“Higher standards of media in Sri Lanka”

“The government will seek high standards for media in Sri Lanka through the establishment of an independent media commission.” said Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Karunarathne Paranawithana while addressing the World Press Freedom Day Conference in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, Transparency International Sri Lanka issuing a release has called on policymakers to institute a consultation process with journalists, media institutions and other stakeholders, in the process of drafting the proposed Counter Terrorism and Media Council Bills.


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