Sri Lanka’s bloody 25-year civil war earned the south Asian island a reputation as one of the world’s least safe places to be a journalist. Reporters faced extensive censorship and the threat of violence. Today, four years after the final defeat of the Tamil Tiger guerrillas, the government of charismatic, populist president Mahinda Rajapaksa argues that, with wartime restrictions lifted, the media are freer than at any time in a generation.
The reality is more complex. Threats and attacks on journalists continue, while organisations that monitor press freedoms, including the US civil liberties group Freedom House, say Sri Lanka now suffers from a subtler but no less extensive system of media control, marked by occasional violence, widespread intimidation and extensive self-censorship.