Sri Lanka | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

53

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

22

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

16

Freedom of expression is provided for in the constitution. The government generally did not use legal restrictions on this right against the media during the year. However, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist rebel group, does not permit freedom of expression in the areas under its control and continues to intimidate and threaten a number of Tamil journalists and other critics. Reporters, particularly those who cover human rights issues or official misconduct, continued to face harassment and threats from the police, security forces, government officials, political activists, and the LTTE. In July, Fisheries Minister Mahinda Wijeskera threatened to kill Lasantha Wickrematunga, the editor of The Sunday Leader, after the newspaper published a series of articles accusing the minister of corruption. In several other instances, police or security forces manhandled reporters as they attempted to cover the news. While some journalists practice self-censorship, private newspapers and broadcasters scrutinize government policies and provide diverse views. The government controls the largest newspaper chain, two major television stations, and a radio station; political coverage in the state-owned media favors the ruling party. During the state of emergency declared in November, President Kumaratunga briefly deployed troops outside government-run media outlets, sacked the chairman of the government-owned Lake House media group, and replaced the editors of state-run print and broadcast outlets with her own supporters. Local and international observers expressed concern that the media were being used as a pawn in the political power struggle underway between the president and the prime minister. Business interests wield some control over content in the form of selective advertising and bribery.