When I first met Sandhya Eknelygoda in May 2010 in her home outside Colombo, she was a distressed mother of two young boys whose husband had gone missing. He was last seen four months earlier, just prior to the elections that returned President Mahinda Rajapaksa to power after the end of the decades-long war with Tamil secessionists. She still has no inkling of the whereabouts of her husband Prageeth, a cartoonist and columnist for the opposition website Lanka eNews (which has since ceased to operate in Sri Lanka because of arson attacks and legal harassment of its staff, but is maintained overseas).
On Wednesday, Sri Lanka's Supreme Court slammed the door on a case about the shutdown of four websites that had failed to register with the government. In handing down its decision, the Court appeared to rule that freedom of expression in Sri Lanka is not an absolute right and can be restricted--and you don't need to pass a law to do so. The three-judge panel told the petitioners who brought the case--Sunil Jayasekara, convener of the Free Media Movement, and Udaya Kalupathirana, a member of the movement's executive committee--that they saw no reason for the court to hear any further arguments.
A couple of weeks ago, I described the terrible incidence of anti-press abuse that has come each recent January in Sri Lanka. Media activists have come to call the month "Black January" for good reason, as this email message details:
Sri Lanka's former attorney general Mohan Peiris, who is now the senior legal adviser to the cabinet and who many Sri Lankans say is aiming to become the next Supreme Court Chief Justice, has made conflicting statements about missing journalist Prageeth Eknelygoda. The discrepancies do more than point up the government's indifference to Eknelygoda's fate and the mental anguish of his wife and two sons. Peiris's statements highlight the disregard with which the government views international opinion.
New York, October 19, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports that access to anti-government news website Lanka eNews has been blocked inside Sri Lanka, according to the site's exiled editor and users inside the country. All three language versions of the site, English, Sinhala, and Tamil, have not been available since Tuesday.
A note for the Sri Lanka watchers who visit CPJ.org regularly. Sanjana Hattotuwa, the founder of the citizen journalism website Groundviews messaged me this morning to say that the site is up and running again after suddenly going down within Sri Lanka over the weekend. Hattotuwa is the driving force behind the site, which is headquartered at the Center for Policy Alternatives, an independent Sri Lankan think tank.
New York, April 28, 2011--Sri Lankan authorities should immediately rescind the temporary suspension of pro-opposition news website Lanka eNews, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The ban is the latest in a series of attacks against the website.
New York, April 25, 2011--Police arrested a journalist with the independent Sri Lankan news website Lanka eNews today, according to local news reports. CPJ has called on the United Nations and the international diplomatic community this year to respond to a series of uninvestigated attacks targeting the outspoken site.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.