Press freedom in Sri Lanka, world, in decline: watchdog

NEW YORK, May 1, 2007 (AFP) – Press freedom around the world deteriorated last year due to coups, attempts to stifle political opposition and regulate use of the Internet, a leading watchdog said in a report Tuesday. The survey gave 74 countries out of the 195 included the “free” rating and 63 the “not free” label. The remainder were considered “partly free.”

US-based Freedom House outlined what it said were particularly troubling trends in Asia, the former Soviet Union and Latin America, in a report that warned that democracy as a whole would likely suffer.

“Press freedom is like the canary in the coal mine,” the group’s executive director Jennifer Windsor said in a statement.

“Assaults on the media are inevitably followed by assaults on other democratic institutions. The fact that press freedom is in retreat is a deeply troubling sign that democracy itself will come under further assault.”

The report, released ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Thursday, said that coups, insurgency and states of emergency in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Philippines and Fiji had all taken their toll on press freedom.

And while Asia had two of the world’s most restrictive governments in North Korea and