For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Obama Administration has named Prageeth Ekneligoda, a Sri Lankan journalist who disappeared in January 2010, as one of their current focuses on endangered journalists in the world.
They urged the Sri Lankan Government to credibly investigate the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and also called on the Government of Sri Lanka to take necessary steps to create space for independent journalists to work without fear of violence or persecution, including ending impunity for attacks and intimidation against journalists.
Prageeth Ekneligoda is listed along with a few other prominent journalists, most of them imprisoned, killed or living in exile.
EskinderNega (Ethiopia), Khadzhimurad Kamalov ( Russia), Cesar Ricaurte,( Ecuador) Annagurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadjiyev ( Turkmenistan ), Mazen Darwish (Syria), Woubishet Taye and Reyot Alemu ( Ethiopia), Mohammed Seddigh Kaboudv and ( Iran), Dawit Isaak ( Eritrea), Dilmurod Sayid (Uzbekistan ), Yoani Sanchez ( Cuban blogger), Tibetan Filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, Natalya Radzina (Belarus) and Vietnamese Blogger Dieu Cay are other journalists who are considered by the U.S. State Department as endangered journalists.
The State Department described Prageeth Ekneligoda as a well-known Sri Lankan political reporter and cartoonist for Lanka-e-news, who went missing in January 2010, just days before the 2010 Sri Lankan Presidential election.
“Ekneligoda is described by colleagues as a political analyst who often criticized the government. Ekneligoda often wrote on human rights issues, including workers’ rights and racial equality. His last phone call indicated he was in a vehicle with a friend in a Colombo suburb. His wife reported him missing the next day to the police in Homagama. Lanka-e-news also filed a police report that evening. An investigation began January 25, 2010. To date, there have been no arrests” the US State Department added.
They also pointed out that in November 2011, Mohan Pieris, the former Attorney- General, suggested in a session at the UN Committee against Torture that Ekneligoda was alive and had secretly left Sri Lanka.
“Last year, the Appeal Court directed the Homagama Magistrate to inquire into Ekneligoda’s whereabouts. Ekneligoda’s case went before the Appeal Court in Colombo on April 24, 2012. In a hearing scheduled for 17 May, the Magistrate Court is expected to decide whether to accept Mohan Pieris’ statement as evidence. The case returns to the Appeal Court on May 31” the US State Department stated.
“Ekneligoda was previously abducted in 2009 by unidentified individuals, but was released the next day. Ekneligoda’s family eagerly awaits news of his fate and continues to pursue justice in his case”.
It is learnt the State Department has already informed Colombo through the diplomatic channels that they have a keen interest in Ekneligoda’s court case.
Last week the US State Department was severely critical of the Sri Lankan Government over grave human rights violations in the “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011”.
In this report also the US State Department stated that there was no significant progress in the case of Prageeth Ekneligoda, a journalist and cartoonist for Lanka-e-news, who disappeared in January 2010, just before the presidential election.
The report pointed out many disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrests, media suppression and other serious human rights violations linked to the Sri Lankan Government.
Mendaka Abeysekera Reporting from New York