January 24, 2011 - Updated on January 20, 2016

No news of political cartoonist one year after his disappearance

Today is the first anniversary of the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda, a cartoonist and political analyst who worked for the Lanka-e-News website. He went missing in Colombo on 24 January 2010. The investigation into his disappearance has drawn a blank, despite the promises initially made by the authorities. The situation for journalists in Sri Lanka continues to be very disturbing. Under the system of media control and intimidation established by President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, state media journalists are censored and journalists with the privately-owned media censor themselves. Those that dare to criticize the president or his associates, as Prageeth did, risk serious reprisals. Reporters Without Borders condemns the failure to assign resources to the investigation into Prageeth’s disappearance. President Rajapaksa must make an effort to establish what happened to this journalist and quickly offer some answers to his family, who have been left to worry for the past year without being told anything. Cartooning for Peace and Reporters Without Borders are marking this sad anniversary by launching an international support campaign, using 12 cartoons by cartoonists throughout the world to symbolize each of the 12 months that Prageeth has been missing. Prageeth’s wife, Sandya Ekneligoda, wrote to the former and current media ministers on 13 December about the lack of progress in the investigation despite the promises that the former minister gave on 10 February and the current minister gave on 7 May. She said her two children were suffering from their father’s absence and the failure to provide any explanation about his disappearance.
Prageeth’s wife, Sandya Ekneligoda and their sons Together with Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), Reporters Without Borders has just relayed an appeal about the literary festival taking place in the southern city of Galle from 26 to 30 January. Addressed to the Galle Literary Festival’s organizers and to the writers who are planning to attend, it does not call for a boycott but urges them to give some thought to the situation of dissident writers, journalists and cartoonists in Sri Lanka, including Prageeth. The Alliance of Media Organizations staged a demonstration outside the main station in Colombo on 18 January about Prageeth’s disappearance and newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga’s January 2009 murder. The participants chanted: “One year since Prageeth’s disappearance, two years since Lasantha assassinated – do we allow injustice?” At least 14 journalists have been murdered in Sri Lanka since 2006, three have disappeared and more than 30 others have been forced to flee the country. Reporters Without Borders was ranked 158th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.