The annual World Press Freedom Index for 2016 compiled by Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and released Wednesday (April 20) ranked Sri Lanka 141st out of180 countries. Sri Lanka's rank improved 24 notches from 165th place it earned in 2015 as the score declined from 60.28 in 2015 to 44.96 this year, on a 0-100 scale with 100 being the worst.

The Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.

"By electing Maithripala Sirisena as president, Sri Lanka freed itself of the reign of terror imposed by the Rajapaksa family and its allies," the RSF said in its press freedom report.

"The new government said journalists and cyber-dissidents would no longer have to fear reprisals for their political views or for articles on such sensitive subjects as corruption and the military."

The Report noted that the Tamil media - long a target of the authorities, including after the official end of the civil war in 2009 -have seen a decline in harassment and hope it will last.

The new government of Sri Lanka has vowed to ensure complete media freedom and has taken several measures since its election last year. The government has allowed journalists to report freely and lifted the bans imposed by the previous government on several media websites.

The media watchdog said the 2016 Index shows that there has been a "deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom" at both the global and regional levels.

Finland for six years in succession ranks at the top of the index again this year, while The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand rounded up the top five in that order.

At the other end of the scale, China, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, in last place, were the worst five performers.

In the South Asian region, Nepal was up 15 places at 105th due to a drop in violence by the security forces against journalists, especially at demonstrations. Elsewhere in the region, Bhutan improved 10 notches to 94th, Pakistan improved 12 notches to rank 147th, India ranked 133rd, Nepal 105th, Afghanistan 120th, Maldives 112th, and Bangladesh 144th.