Columnist Disappeared; Fears for Safety
International PEN is deeply concerned for the well-being of columnist Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda, who has been missing since January 24, 2010. PEN fears that pro-government forces may be responsible for his disappearance, and calls for a thorough investigation into his case as a matter of urgency. PEN is alarmed that journalists in Sri Lanka continue to be targeted for their dissenting views, and urges the Sri Lankan authorities to abide by their obligations to the international treaties protecting free expression, in particular Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party.
According to PEN’s information, Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda, political analyst, journalist, and visual designer for the Lanka eNews, disappeared on January 24, 2010, and his whereabouts remain unknown. He was last seen leaving his office on that evening, and there are fears that he has been abducted by pro-government forces. Government sources have denied the allegation. Ekanaliyagoda is a leading columnist, and reportedly published articles in favor of the defeated opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka ahead of the Sri Lankan presidential elections that took place on January 26. The Lanka eNews web site was reportedly blocked during the elections, and its offices were searched by unidentified individuals on January 28, 2010. Previously, on August 27, 2009, Ekanaliyagoda had been abducted and held blindfolded overnight, and was released after being told that he was not the correct target. Family and colleagues have expressed increasing concern that the authorities have done very little to investigate Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda’s disappearance, and they fear for his safety.
On January 29, 2010, Chandana Sirimalwatte, editor of the Lanka newspaper, was arrested under the country’s emergency regulations and held for 18 days, apparently for articles critical of the government. He was released without charge on February 16, 2010.
Journalists, writers and media outlets commonly suffer intimidation and violence in Sri Lanka, a situation that has continued in spite of commitments to protect freedom of expression by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. After 25 years of conflict between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers, victory over the Tigers was declared by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 16, 2009. Rajapaksa went on to win a landslide victory in the presidential elections of January 26, 2010; however, the outcome was rejected by many, including his main opposition rival and former army chief General Sarath Fonseka. On February 9, 2010, Mahinda Rajapaksa dissolved the Sri Lankan Parliament and called for fresh elections which are expected to be held on April 8, 2010. General Fonseka was arrested on February 8, 2010, on charges of conspiracy.
Write A Letter
- Expressing serious concern for the welfare of journalist Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda, and urging a full, prompt and impartial investigation into his disappearance;
- Calling on the Sri Lankan authorities to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists and protect freedom of expression in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party.
Send Your Letter To
His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Fax: +94 11 2446657
Salutation: Your Excellency
Mr. Mohan Peiris
Attorney General's Department,
Fax: +94 11 2 436421
H. M. G. S. Palihakkara
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
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Sri Lanka in your country if possible.
Please contact PEN if sending appeals after April 15, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org