FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Wife presses UN over missing Sri Lanka cartoonist

The wife of missing Sri Lankan political cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda marked 1,000 days since his disappearance Monday with an appeal to UN chief Ban Ki-moon to intervene.
Sandhya Eknelygoda led a group of rights activists and staged a demonstration outside the United Nations offices in Colombo urging the world body to pressure Sri Lanka for information about her husband.
The cartoonist who contributed to the pro-opposition Lankaenews.com website did not return home after work on January 24, 2010, two days before President Mahinda Rajapakse’s re-election at a fiercely contested vote.I have spent the last 1,000 days looking for my husband,” Sandhya Eknelygoda told reporters outside the UN compound. “Instead of giving any answers, the government has tried to ridicule me.”

“I hope the UN secretary general will take up my appeal and put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to stop disappearances and let us know what happened to my husband. Every day, we live in hope that he will return.”

The case of Eknelygoda has already figured at UN Human Rights council sessions and Sri Lankan authorities initially said he had gone abroad, but later retracted the claim and insisted they were unaware of his whereabouts.

The US and the European Union have singled out Eknelygoda’s case as a sign of suppressing dissent in the country where 17 journalists and media workers have been killed in the past decade.

The Eknelygoda family has maintained that he was abducted for his writings and cartoons criticising the administration, a charge the government has denied.

The lankaenews.com website he worked for had been the target of arson attacks and the authorities have also ordered local Internet service providers to block the anti-establishment news portal.

Sri Lanka lifted a state of emergency last year, but media rights groups have said journalists have been forced to self-censor their work amid fear of physical attacks.

By Agence France-Presse

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