January 25, 2012

His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2446657
Mr. Mohan Peiris
Attorney General
Attorney General’s Department
Colombo 12
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2 436421

Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
630 Third Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10017 
Fax: (212) 986-1838 

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, and on the two-year anniversary of the disappearance of journalist Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda, we are writing to urge the Sri Lankan authorities to conduct an immediate and through investigation into his abduction, and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda, political analyst, journalist, and visual designer for the Lanka eNews web site, was abducted two years ago on January 24, 2010, ahead of the Sri Lankan presidential elections set to take place on January 26. He has not been heard from since. No thorough and credible investigation into his case has been made and his wife has received no response to her repeated requests for information about her husband’s fate. There are fears that he has been targeted by pro-government forces for his open support of General Sarath Fonseka during the presidential elections, though government sources have denied this allegation. However, the Lanka eNews web site was reportedly blocked during the elections, and its offices were searched by unidentified individuals on January 28, 2010.

Ekanaliyagoda was also previously abducted and held blindfolded overnight on August 27, 2009, although he was released after being told he was not the correct target. Since then, family and colleagues have expressed mounting concerns for his safety, but authorities have done little to investigate his disappearance. Journalists and writers in Sri Lanka often face intimidation and violence due to a “culture of terror” fostered by the state, which has led to widespread self-censorship and many journalists fleeing the country. It is widely believed that freedom of expression in Sri Lanka has deteriorated since President Mahinda Rajapaska declared victory over the Tamil Tigers and won a landslide victory in the 2010 elections. This outcome, however, was rejected by many, including opposition General Sarath Fonseka, who was himself arrested on February 8, 2010, and convicted on charges of conspiracy.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Prageeth Ekanaliyagoda remains missing two years after his abduction in 2010, and fears that he has been disappeared in retaliation for his work as a journalist. We therefore urge the authorities to take immediate action to ensure that all crimes against journalists, including Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda, are vigorously investigated and that those responsible be brought to justice in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party.

Thank you for your consideration of this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: His Excellency Jaliya Wickramasuriya
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Sri Lanka to the United States of America
2148 Wyoming Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 232-7181

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