Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published a list of 37 world leaders "who crack down massively on press freedom."
The "Press Freedom Predators" list for the year 2021 published on Monday (05) also includes Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
RSF noted that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election as president in November 2019 returned Sri Lanka to the darkest hours of its recent history.
"A retired army lieutenant-colonel, “Gota” was defence minister while his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was president from 2005 to 2015, the so-called “dark decade” during which the military finally crushed the Tamil armed separatists by dint of a great deal of bloodshed, ending the decades-old civil war in 2009," RSF said.
Highlighting that much of the Sri Lankan press is now censoring itself, either because of what he did in the past as the Defence Secretary of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime or what he is doing now as president, RSF said that many Sri Lankan journalists now face a terrible dilemma of "do they do their job or do they avoid putting their lives in danger?."
"They have to live with the ghosts of so many colleagues who were murdered while, at the same time, the impunity for crimes of violence against journalists committed on Gota’s orders continues to be total," the rights watchdog said.
"Against this background, investigative reporting on such sensitive issues as the plight of the Tamil minority or Sri Lanka’s Muslim community seems extremely dangerous. Those who dare are exposed to two dangers. One is judicial, the probability that the police will come with warrants for their arrest. The other is physical, the probability that they will receive death threats, which the police will refuse to register if they try to file a complaint. Either way, terror is back."
According to the World Press Freedom Index compiled by RSF, Sri Lanka was ranked 127 out of a total 180 countries making it one of the world’s most difficult countries for journalists.