Federation of Journalists (IFJ) extends its support to the protest planned for
August 10 by the Alliance of Media Organisations in Sri Lanka, to mark 200 days since
the disappearance of cartoonist and columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
The protest (or satyagraha) and a seminar will be held in Colombo to urge the authorities fully
investigate the whereabouts of Eknaligoda.
The IFJ calls upon its affiliates
worldwide to show solidarity by contacting their local Sri Lankan missions to express
their concerns at the police and security agencies’ failure to trace the
“The IFJ calls upon authorities in Sri Lanka
to show a greater sense of purpose over this case,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
“Statements from official agencies,
including the police and the Ministry for Information, have been far from
reassuring, since they have invariably failed to deliver on promises that
information about Eknaligoda’s whereabouts would be made available.
“Further, there have been
suggestions from official agencies dismissing Eknaligoda’s disappearance as
A habeas corpus petition filed
by Eknaligoda’s family is pending in the Colombo High Court. Six hearings have
been held, most recently on July 21. Early hearings were adjourned because the
bench was purportedly not up to full strength to hear a case of this nature. It
was only after the third hearing that the bench of two judges began to deal
substantively with the case.
the fifth hearing, police assured the court that they would have some
information available by the sixth hearing. But the police failed to turn up at
the hearing on July 21. The judge ordered that notice be sent to them again.
The next hearing is scheduled for September.
Reportedly, Eknaligoda was last seen
by the staff of Lanka-e-News (www.lankaenews.com),
the news portal where he worked on a freelance basis, as he left the office
about 8.30 pm on January 24.
Polls were scheduled to open in Sri Lanka’s
presidential elections less than 36 hours later.
As he left, Eknaligoda reportedly
had phone contact with a friend. He expressed his inability to meet the friend since
he had already taken a three-wheeler taxi towards meeting another friend. The
identity of the person he was going to meet remains unknown.
The police have not revealed the
call records from Eknaligoda’s phone or managed to trace his cell phone.
Eknaligoda was a cartoonist with the
state-owned Lake House group of newspapers for long and resigned in 1996,
reportedly because he came under pressure after defying a request from the then
President to do a cartoon ridiculing the leader of the opposition.
In recent times, he has been a
contributor to the Lanka-e-News portal and a Sinhala language paper, Colombo.
He has been involved in left-wing
politics since the 1970s and in November 2009 took up an active role in the
presidential election campaign for the former Sri Lankan army commander, Sarath
Fonseka. He addressed a number of public meetings in support of Fonseka in Colombo and elsewhere.
Sandhya Eknaligoda, his wife, has
since been battling alone and against great odds. Their two sons aged 16 and 13
are suffering psychological stress and have barely been able to attend regular
Prageeth Eknaligoda is an
insulin-dependent diabetic who underwent open-heart surgery in 2005.
In August 2009, Eknaligoda was
abducted late one evening while on his way home and held till the early hours
next morning. He was reportedly kept blindfolded and heard nothing from his
captors to reveal their motives. All the currency that he carried was taken
away, as too was an ATM cash card. The family however did not detect any
illicit withdrawals from Eknaligoda’s bank accounts after this episode.
As part of an international
coalition working for press freedom and journalists’ rights in Sri Lanka, the
IFJ commits itself to supporting Eknaligoda’s family through this moment of
The August 10 protest in Colombo will be held at 3pm in Viharamahadevi Park,
followed by a seminar at the Public Library.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents
more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific