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Solidarity welcomed as protesters demand action on missing journalist

(IFJ/IFEX) - 12 August 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the display of strength and unity by colleagues of missing Sri Lankan columnist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda at a protest and public meeting in Colombo on August 10.

A coalition of Sri Lankan press freedom groups - including IFJ affiliates the Free Media Movement (FMM), the Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association (SLWJA) and the Federation of Media Employees' Trade Union (FMETU) - staged a satyagraha, or silent protest, to mark 200 days since Eknaligoda mysteriously disappeared.

Protest organisers for the Alliance of Media Organisations commended the estimated 350 people who attended the rally to call for a full and open investigation into Eknaligoda's whereabouts, in an environment where displays of public protest are often stifled for fear of reprisals.

Organisers said rallies of this nature generally draw crowds of about 50 people.

The satyagraha was followed by a march and public meeting chaired by FMM Secretary Seetha Ranjanee, and featured speeches from several prominent human rights and press freedom activists.

"The IFJ commends Eknaligoda's colleagues and Sri Lankan human rights activists for taking a brave public stand to demand action in relation to his disappearance," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"It is encouraging to see the local journalists' community in Sri Lanka will not let intimidation stand in the way of their struggle for justice in one of the most dangerous places for media workers in the world."

Eknaligoda, who is known for his outspoken political views, went missing on January 24, two days before Sri Lanka's presidential elections.

The IFJ has forwarded a letter of concern signed by members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) to the Government of Sri Lanka.

The IFJ and other international press freedom organisations are demanding the government ensure all efforts are made to locate Eknaligoda and bring those responsible for his disappearance to justice.

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