For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its support for LankaeNews, a Colombo-based online newspaper that has made a major contribution to media pluralism and independently reported news and information in Sri Lanka, and for its journalists, who are unable to work normally because of the many threats and attacks against them.
Their safety is no longer assured as a result of all the harassment and intimidation that is detailed in a report that three media freedom and human rights organizations – Free Media Movement, Inform Human Rights Documentation Centre and Law & Society Trust – released on 24 March.
Reporters Without Borders has decided to relay the report’s appeal to international organizations for help in finding the means to guarantee the physical safety of LankaeNews’ journalists.
Launched in 2005, the website incurred the government’s wrath just over a year ago when it supported Gen. Sarath Fonseka, the leading challenger to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 2010 presidential election. The site’s cartoonist, Prageeth Ekneligoda, disappeared on 24 January 2010 and is still missing. More than a year has gone by and his family is still without any news of him.
LankaeNews editor Sandaruwan Senadheera fled to Britain in March 2010 after receiving death threats. Then an arson attack destroyed the website’s premises in Colombo on 31 January of this year.
Entitled “Call for urgent interventions to ensure security of LankaeNews,” the report also highlights the irregularities in the investigation into the January arson attack and the newspaper Dinamina’s smear campaign against the website. Dinamina claimed that, when the police examined its offices after the fire, they found porn films, alcohol and used condoms.
The investigation into the arson attack has not been conducted in a serious manner and has produced no hard evidence. The case is due to come before a court on 20 April.
Reporters Without Borders believes that it is vital for justice to be done in a country where journalists are often the victims of violence. The impunity must stop.
Sri Lanka is ranked 158th out of 178 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.