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Sri Lanka Plummets in 2024 World Press Freedom Index

Sri Lanka has dropped fifteen places in the 2024 World Press Freedom Index, now ranking 150th, as per the annual report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Last year, Sri Lanka held the 135th position out of 180 countries. Comparatively, Pakistan is ranked 152nd, while India stands at 159th this year.

The index assesses 180 countries based on journalists’ ability to work and report freely and independently.

Regarding Sri Lanka, the report highlights the lingering impact of the civil war that ended in 2009 and the unresolved violence against journalists during the conflict. It notes the media sector’s lack of diversity and heavy reliance on major political factions, posing risks to journalism in the country with a population of 22 million.

While Sri Lankan law theoretically upholds freedom of expression, the report points out the absence of adequate journalist protection measures. It raises concerns about a newly enacted internet regulation law, which empowers the president-appointed Online Safety Commission to censor social media content under the pretext of national security.

Regarding journalist safety, the report mentions the absence of accountability for past attacks on media personnel. Although no journalist has been killed since 2015, previous incidents remain unresolved. The report also highlights increased surveillance and harassment of journalists, particularly in Tamil-majority regions, as well as the exclusion of independent media from these areas.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Myanmar, China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan rank among the world’s ten most dangerous countries for journalists. In the Middle East and North Africa, press freedom faces significant challenges in nearly half of the countries, with Palestine being the deadliest for journalists.

European countries, particularly within the European Union, maintain good press freedom, with Sweden replacing Ireland among the top three countries in the Index. However, challenges persist in Hungary, Malta, and Greece, the lowest-ranked EU nations.

Overall, the decline in the political indicator has impacted the top trio in the World Press Freedom Index, with Norway maintaining its first position despite a decrease in its political score. Ireland relinquished its leading EU position to Denmark due to judicial intimidation of media outlets by politicians.

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