FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Vigil in Colombo for Prageeth

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

There has been a silent demonstration in the centre of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, to mark one of this year’s most notorious cases of human rights abuse: the disappearance of a journalist, Prageeth Eknaligoda.

The gathering came on the eve of the 200th day after he vanished in mysterious circumstances.

At the centre of this silent rally sat Sandya Eknaligoda, a woman who, with her two young sons, grieves but doensít quite know whether to hold out any hope.

Her husband, Prageeth, a journalist and cartoonist, and critic of the authorities and the powerful in Sri Lanka, went to work on 24th January but never came back.

Next to her was the wife of Sarath Fonseka, the former army commander once feared by many human rights activists but now detained and on trial.

‘Pursuing political opponents’

Two hundred days after Mr Eknaligoda disappeared, and 11 days after an armed gang firebombed an independent radio and TV station, media rights groups say itís unacceptable that the authorities havenít caught the perpetrators of these or similar acts.

They are very very efficient in pursuing political opponents. But when it comes to pursuing the people who are behind these attacks, nothing has been done. Thatís because they have got the impunity from the very top

At the demonstration was a politician, Mangala Samaraweera, who used to be President Mahinda Rajapaksaís foreign minister but later defected to the opposition and is scathing about the government.

“They are very very efficient in pursuing political opponents. But when it comes to pursuing the people who are behind these attacks, nothing has been done. Thatís because they have got the impunity from the very top,” Mr. Samaraweera said.

The authorities say they are doing their best to hunt down those guilty of victimising journalists and civil society workers.

They have made almost no progress.

By contrast, last week they arrested one of the country’s biggest alleged fraudsters.

They also say they that in July alone they detained more than a thousand people suspected of involvement with the now defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2010/08/100810_prageeth_vigil.shtml

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