Sri Lanka | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Status change explanation: Sri Lanka's rating improved from Not Free to Partly Free as a result of a cease-fire and continuing peace talks between the government and rebels, which facilitated a more open environment for the media, as well as the removal of criminal defamation legislation.

Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression, the government has restricted this right in practice, particularly with regard to coverage of the civil war. However, authorities lifted censorship of military-related news last year. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel group tightly restricts the media in areas under its control. In a major advance for press freedom, an act of parliament removed criminal defamation legislation from the statute books in June. The government controls many of the largest media outlets, and political coverage in the state-owned media favors the ruling party. While private newspapers and broadcasters scrutinize government policies, journalists do practice some self-censorship. Reporters, particularly those who cover human rights issues, corruption, or police misconduct, continued to face some harassment, threats, and violent attacks at the hands of the police, security forces, government supporters, and the LTTE during the year. In February, a court sentenced two air force officers to prison terms for an attack on a journalist that had occurred four years ago. However, the murder of a BBC reporter in October 2000 by unidentified gunmen remains unsolved.