Sri Lanka: January still a "black month" for Journalism
by Melani Manel Perera

Journalists and activists remember their colleague Prageeth Eknaligoda, disappeared on 24 January 2010. In the elections which have decreed the Rajapaksa victory, he supported the opponent Fonseka. His wife alleges collusion between the army and the current president Sirisena.


Colombo (AsiaNews) - Even under the government of President Maithripala Sirisena, January is still a "black month" for journalism, Sri Lankan journalists tells AsiaNews, speaking of colleagues who disappeared during the past few years and never returned to their families.

In particular, they recalled Prageeth Eknaligoda, a journalist and political cartoonist who disappeared on January 24, 2010. He went missing on the eve of the elections that marked the triumph of Mahinda Rajapska over General Sarath Fonseka.

Prageeth worked for an independent online magazine that supported the candidacy of Fonseka, and this is why his family has always accused the supporters of Rajapaksa of having organized the kidnapping. Sandhaya Priyangani Eknaligoda, wife of the journalist, says: "From the very first day I always believed that his kidnapping is the work of Rajapaksa. He and his brother Gotabhaya are responsible ".

As before, this year the country marked "Black January" to remember the murders, forced disappearances, arson and violence suffered by journalists and media workers. Dozens of journalists and activists gathered in front of the Foundation Institute and the Library Council of Colombo to remember Prageeth and ask the current president to appoint a special commission to investigate his fate.

According to the latest available information, he was taken to an army base and from there moved to another place on the east coast. From there all traces were lost. "We live in the hope that he is still alive - says his wife - even if the investigations department says that he would have died."

The woman has been leading a valiant and courageous campaign for years. "There is no time for tears – she says - otherwise I would lose strength to continue my search."

The wife of cartoonist denounces the investigations conducted by the government, and noted a change of attitude since Sirisena was elected. Before the victory, he promised to make a change to inquiries. He later criticized the behavior of some soldiers, suspected of having held Prageeth hostage longer than is necessary. "But then after a few days – she reports - they were released on bail. This is a clear example that the suspects have state support".