Reporters Without Borders urges the security forces to assign more personnel to the search for journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who sent missing last night in Colombo. A senior police official told the press freedom organisation he was too busy with tomorrow’s presidential election to make the case a priority.
Eknaligoda, who writes political analyses for the Lankaenews website, left work at about 9 p.m. but did not arrive home and has not contacted any family members or friends. He had told a close friend he thought he had been followed for the past few days.
“Given the current political tension, it is extremely worrying that journalist known for criticising the government should disappear in the capital,” Reporters Without Borders said. “With rumours of premeditated violence against journalists circulating, we expect a rapid response from the authorities designed to find Eknaligoda safe and sound.”
Eknaligoda’s wife told Reporters Without Borders she reported his disappearance to police stations in the Homagama and Rajagirirya-Welikada districts of the capital, and police officers took her statement.
A fellow journalist told Reporters Without Borders that Eknaligoda had been threatened because of his political analyses: “Last week he wrote a long comparative analysis of the two main candidates for the presidential election that was published in Sinhalese on the Lankaenews site. He sided with the opposition. We fear that his disappearance is linked to that article.”
Eknaligoda, who works for the newspaper Sirata as well as Lankaenews and is also well-known as a cartoonist, was previously kidnapped for a few hours on 3 August.
Yesterday’s disappearance comes one day after the leading opposition candidate, General Sarath Fonseka, accused the government of planning violence in order to scare voters.
Other journalists have been kidnapped in recent years. Poddala Jayantha, the secretary-general of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, was kidnapped on a Colombo street in June of last year, tortured and then dumped on the side of a road. Radio Sooriyan news editor Nadarajah Kuruparan was kidnapped for 20 hours in Colombo in August 2006. Dharmeratnam “Taraki” Sivaram, editor of the Tamilnet news website and columnist for the Colombo-based Daily Mirror, was kidnapped and then murdered in April 2005.
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