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Journalist's wife calls for investigation into his disappearance

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, February 24, 2010 - One month after the disappearance of her husband Prageeth Eknaligoda, the journalist's wife, Sandhya Eknaligoda, told CPJ that she has not been able to get police or other government officials to actively investigate the case.

"I have written to the president and have not gotten a response," Eknaligoda said today. Our children want their father back, and we have not gotten a single word about where he is."

Prageeth Eknaligoda, a political reporter and cartoonist for Lanka eNews, disappeared on the night of January 24. Several CPJ sources said they fear he was abducted. Eknaligoda was described by colleagues as a political analyst who supported opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, who was jailed shortly after he lost the January 26 presidential election to incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Lanka eNews cannot be accessed in Sri Lanka, though the site is available outside the country. Access was blocked around the time of Eknaligoda's disappearance, two days before voting started.

"The continuing unexplained disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda is a chilling reminder of the dangers Sri Lankan journalists face," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director. "The lack of response by authorities to his wife's pleas for an investigation is frightening given the impunity with which journalists have been abused in Sri Lanka."

On January 29, CPJ expressed alarm over reports that Sri Lankan journalists have been subjected to government intimidation, arrests, censorship, and harassment in the aftermath of the January 26 presidential election. The situation has not improved since then, according to many journalists in the country.

Sandhya Eknaligoda said she last saw her husband when he left for work around 7:30 a.m. on the morning of January 24. After he did not return home that evening, she filed a complaint with the local police office at 11:30 a.m. on the next day. She said police refused to accept the complaint, and only began to look into the case two weeks later. A complaint she filed to Sri Lanka's Human Rights Commission has not resulted in any more information, though the commission launched an investigation on February 12. Her attorneys have filed a case in the Court of Appeal, asking the government to reveal if they are holding him. The case is still being adjudicated.

Eknaligoda said her husband was previously abducted by unidentified individuals in August 2009, but released the next day. He had been handcuffed and blindfolded. The incident was never explained nor prosecuted by police. The couple have two sons, ages 16 and 13.

Sri Lanka ranks 13th on CPJ's list of journalists killed for their work, and fourth on the CPJ Global Impunity Index. In March 2009, CPJ released "Failure to Investigate", a report detailing attacks on journalists in the country and the government's inability to bring prosecutions in the deaths of journalists.

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