New York, July 23, 2010—Six months after the unexplained disappearance of Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda, the government has refused to offer any assistance or provide answers to his wife, Sandhya. The government’s attitude is a clear indicator of the anti-media polices of President Mahindra Rajapaksa, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Eknelygoda, a political reporter and cartoonist for Lanka eNews, disappeared on the night of January 24, two days before the presidential elections that gave the incumbent president a sweeping victory that will keep him power for six more years.
“The media under Rajapaksa have been under tremendous pressure,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The government’s silence over Prageeth Eknelygoda’s disappearance represents the continuation of policies that have allowed journalists killers’ to go unprosecuted, and driven scores of others into exile. The government must offer Sandhya Eknelygoda all its support in finding her husband.”
Sandhya Eknelygoda told CPJ she last saw her husband when he left for work around 7:30 a.m. on the morning of January 24. Since then, repeated visits to police stations, appeals to members of parliament, and personal requests to Rajapaksa and other members of his government have been met with silence. (Sandhya Eknelygoda’s wife wrote an entry for the CPJ Blog about her husband’s case. A slide show of his cartoons can be seen here.)
With no answers forthcoming from the government, Sandhya Eknelygoda says she will start organizing prayer vigils at temples across the country. The first will be at the Kaali Amma Kovil Hindu temple in Colombo at 5 p.m. Saturday.
In a report released in May, In Sri Lanka, no peace dividend for press, CPJ highlighted Eknelygoda’s case, noting that even with the end of Sri Lanka’s war with Tamil rebels, repression of independent media has not eased, and journalists still face violence, harassment, and detention.
CPJ reported extensively on attacks on journalists in its special report Sri Lanka: Failure to Investigate and recently ranked Sri Lanka as the fourth-worst country in the world for impunity in attacks on journalists. Twelve journalists have been killed and scores of others attacked since the Rajapaksa government came to power in 2004, with no convictions in any of the cases.
CPJ’s Journalists Assistance program counts more than 40 Sri Lankan journalists living outside of the country who left out of fear for their safety.