01/31/2013, 00.00
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A "Black January" for information: Sri Lanka’s "false" press freedom

by Melani Manel Perera
Since 2005 there have been 138 attacks on media institutions, and 17 journalists have died in unclear circumstances. The government has never found the culprits of murders, forced disappearances and arson attacks.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - This year Sri Lanka celebrated "Black January", to commemorate the murders, forced disappearances, arson and violence suffered by journalists and media workers in recent years. Hundreds of journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians attended the event, held on 29 January at the Lipton Circus in Colombo, which was followed by a meeting at the Public Library Auditorium.

This is the second year of the event, which takes its name from the number of attacks in the month of January. Many of these took place between 2008 and 2010, a "hot" period in the final stages of the civil war and the first post-conflict elections.

According to Sunil Jayasekara, President of the Free Media Movement, "in the last 10 years there have been 138 attacks against reporters and publications and since 2005 17 journalists have been killed. In no case was a culprit found or sentenced." During the event, participants reported the many ways in which the Government of Sri Lanka, over the years, has attempted to harness information. In addition to killings and enforced disappearances,  since 2005 journalists and photographers have been subjected to police interrogations, threats, confiscation of material, censorship, "visits" of the police in the middle of the night in their private homes.

Among the most striking is that of Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of the Sunday Leader, who was assassinated on 8 January 2009 by two unknown assailants, or Prageeth Ekneligoda, political cartoonist who vanished Jan. 24, 2010. Police still insist he "voluntarily disappeared".


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