Colombo: Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena today appointed a committee to probe the harassment of media personnel under the regime of his powerful predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa. A notice from the President’s office said that all journalists who suffered harassment and loss of property under Rajapaksa must report to an Additional Secretary under Sirisena by mid June.
Media freedom in Sri Lanka was rated low when the former president was at the helm for a decade. The Reporters Without Borders, 2015 world press freedom index ranked Sri Lanka at 165 out of 180 countries, up 2 positions compared to 2013, which was an improvement post-Rajapaksa.
In 2013, Sri Lanka was ranked 162 out of 178 countries. Sri Lanka was also ranked among the most dangerous countries to practice journalism. Many journalists reported harassment under Rajapaksa, the most prominent was the broad day-light murder of the editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga, while several other
media institutions faced attacks by goon squads.
Rajapaksa, credited with ending the country’s nearly three-decades-old civil war with LTTE in 2009, was in power from 2005 to 2015. He was defeated by Sirisena in January last year.