For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Obama administration recognized Sri Lankan Journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda’s disappearance case as a major blow to world press freedom, during the run up to the State Departments programmes on Press Freedom Day.
The US State Department presented Ekneligoda’s disappearance as a World Press Freedom Day “Free the Press” case on Friday.
During the last two weeks, the State Department has been highlighting world’s major free media violations cases on each day.
Mark C. Toner, State Department Deputy Spokesperson, stated Sri Lankan journalist Ekneligoda’s disappearance has had no arrests to date.
“Ekneligoda often wrote about human rights issues, including workers’ rights and racial equality. There’s an investigation that began on 25 January, 2010, but to date there have been no arrests,” he said.
Meanwhile Amnesty International has hailed the US Government’s decision to highlight Ekneligoda’s case on the World Press Freedom Day programme.
Jim McDonald, Sri Lanka Country Specialist in Amnesty International USA, stated that at least 14 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006, with no one being convicted for these murders.
“Amnesty International is deeply concerned about Eknaligoda. He disappeared on 24 January, 2010, a few days after publishing an article critical of the most influential politician in Sri Lanka,” McDonald said.
“Local residents said that they saw a white van without number plates near his home shortly before he disappeared. In the days leading up to his disappearance, Prageeth had told a close friend that he believed he was being followed,” he added.
Amnesty called on the Sri Lankan Government to promptly investigate his disappearance, make the results public and hold accountable those found responsible for his disappearance.
He added that numerous journalists have been detained while others have left the country after receiving death threats.
“Physical attacks and the relentless intimidation of journalists are threatening freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. The disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda on 24 January, 2010 is but one example”.
Amnesty International USA, two months ago, started signing a petition to Sri Lankan Police Chief, urging him to investigate Prageeth Eknaligoda’s disappearance.
“Amnesty International believes his support for the opposition candidate prior to the 26 January, 2010 Presidential election may have made him a target. There are reports that others have been abducted by paramilitary groups and state agents as far back as 2006,” AI said in a statement.
“Prageeth himself was abducted by such a van in 2009 and released after a day. Please use your position to investigate the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda. Please make the results of this investigation public and hold accountable those responsible” Amnesty International USA stated in their petition.
Mendaka Abeysekera reporting from New York