Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

“Terminator” v. press freedom

Known as the “Terminator” from his decade as defence secretary during his brother Mahinda’s two terms as president from 2005 to 2015, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in as president in November 2019. During his time as defence secretary, viewed by Sri Lankan journalists as a dark decade, “Gota” reportedly oversaw the “white van commando,” a team of special operatives that used white vans to abduct and murder journalists. At least 14 disappeared in this fashion. Shortly after his installation as president, there was a surge in cases of police harassment of journalists, including raids, interrogations and acts of intimidation, for all sorts of reasons. The issue of impunity for crimes of violence against journalists continues to dog the press freedom situation on the island. According to a tally by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), RSF’s partner organisation, at least 44 journalists and media workers have been killed or disappeared during the past two decades. Although the murders ended in 2015, the impunity is still total. The year of the tenth anniversary of the end of the civil war and the crushing of the Tamil rebellion, 2019, also saw a disturbing increase in police attacks on reporters covering issues linked to Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. Several of them received serious death threats in 2020.

in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index



127 in 2020

Global score


41.94 in 2020

  • 0
    journalists killed in 2022
  • 0
    citizens journalists killed in 2022
  • 0
    media assistants killed in 2022
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