Request for help for Prageeth: Lost in the mail?

Finally, there has been some movement in the case of Prageeth Eknelygoda, at left, the Sri Lankan journalist who disappeared on January 24, 2010. The United Nations says it has received a letter from Eknelygoda‘s wife, Sandhya, that she had handed over to the U.N. representative in Colombo, Neil Buhne, on January 24, the anniversary of his disappearance.  

On Thursday, the spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky, told the daily U.N. media briefing in New York that “the letter to the secretary-general, which was transmitted to New York by the U.N. resident coordinator in Colombo, had been received.” He has also said that the letter was channeled to colleagues in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights too. 

With the delay in communication between Colombo and New York no longer an issue, the next question is: What will the United Nations do to assist Sandhya Eknelygoda and her two teenage sons in finding out what happened to their husband and father?

On Thursday, Nesirky said that the “letter is now being reviewed. We’ve asked for an update on this, and will let you know when we have it. The disappearance of any journalist anywhere is, of course, a matter of concern, and not just to the secretary-general.”

At our press conference on Tuesday at the U.N. to launch our yearly survey, Attacks on the Press, we had called on Ban to bring pressure on the Sri Lankan government. The same day, the New York-based nonprofit Inner City Press followed up our assertions, and got a denial that the letter had ever been sent. But by Thursday, the story had changed.

And, just for the record, here’s what we have been asserting:

The letter was handed over to Buhne, at the U.N. office in Colombo on January 24, in the presence of about 35 journalists, media, and human rights activists, at around 12:30 p.m. Buhne said he would certainly deliver the letter to Ban, and also bring up the issue with the Sri Lankan government as frequently as possible. The handing over of the letter was widely reported; here are just a few links:


Colombo Page

Daily Mirror