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Attacks on the Press in 2011 - Sri Lanka

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 22 February 2012
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2011 - Sri Lanka, 22 February 2012, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Key Developments

  • Critical website banned, leaving just two independent, domestic news sites.

  • Impunity in anti-press attacks widespread; another assault goes unpunished.

The government's effort to silence critical media has been brutally effective as politically motivated deaths, attacks, and disappearances go uninvestigated and unprosecuted. The sister websites Groundviews and Vikalpa became the last independent news sites based in Sri Lanka, after a series of attacks on Lanka eNews. Arsonists attacked the offices of Lanka eNews in January, and authorities arrested the site's Colombo-based editor Bennet Rupasinghe in March. The site continued to publish from London but was blocked domestically. Authorities have turned the notion of law enforcement on its head, obstructing justice in numerous anti-press attacks. Prime examples are the unsolved 2010 disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda and the unsolved 2009 murder of prominent editor Lasantha Wickramatunga. Anti-press violence continued in 2011. In July, Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil-language daily Uthayan, was assaulted in northern Sri Lanka by assailants wielding iron bars. News media access to northern, predominantly Tamil areas remained severely restricted. The government and Tamil secessionists rejected allegations that they committed human rights violations during the long civil war, but independent coverage of the abuses was limited.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2011.]

Missing: 1

The 2010 disappearance of Lanka eNews cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda has gone virtually unexamined, according to CPJ research. Eknelygoda was also a political reporter for the opposition website.

One of Prageeth Eknelygoda's last cartoons:

Murdered in Rajapaksa era: 9

CPJ data show that since Mahinda Rajapaksa became prime minister in April 2004, and then later president, nine journalists have been murdered in politically charged circumstances.

Impunity Index ranking: 4th

Sri Lanka is one of the worst nations in the world in combating anti-press violence, according to CPJ's Impunity Index. The index calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country's population. Authorities have obtained no convictions in any of the nine murders in the past decade.

CPJ's 2011 Impunity index:

1. Iraq
2. Somalia
3. Philippines
4. Sri Lanka
5. Colombia
6. Afghanistan
7. Nepal
8. Mexico
9. Russia
10. Pakistan
11. Bangladesh
12. Brazil
13. India

In exile, 2001-11: 25

Violence and intimidation have forced Sri Lankan journalists to flee in high numbers. Despite its small size, Sri Lanka ranks among the leading nations from which journalists have fled, CPJ research shows.

Journalists in Exile, 2001-2011:

79 Ethiopia
68 Somalia
66 Iran
55 Iraq
49 Zimbabwe
47 Eritrea
25 Sri Lanka
25 Cuba
20 Colombia
18 Haiti
18 Rwanda
18 Uzbekistan
17 Gambia

Internet penetration, 2010: 12%

Sri Lanka's Internet usage rate tripled from 2007 to 2010, according to the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU. With the shutdown of Lanka eNews, the nation has only two domestic websites, Groundviews and its sister Vikalpa with Sinhala and Tamil content, that are critical of the government.

Internet penetration rates in South Asia, according to the ITU:

Maldives: 28.3 percent
Pakistan: 16.8
Sri Lanka: 12
India: 7.5
Nepal: 6.8
Afghanistan: 4
Bangladesh: 3.7

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