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Media organisations urge UN to expedite efforts to locate missing journalist

(FMM/IFEX) - In a letter to the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sri Lanka, FMM and a number of other media organisations urged the UN to expedite efforts to locate missing journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda:

24th January 2011

Mr. Neil Buhne
Resident Coordinator
United Nations
Colombo 7

Dear Mr. Buhne,

Appeal to expedite UN efforts to find disappeared cartoonist / journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda and protect and promote freedom of expression in Sri Lanka

Firstly, we wish to thank you for agreeing to meet with us and the family of Prageeth Ekneligoda and other concerned groups and individuals.

We believe you are aware of the severe repression of freedom of expression in Sri Lanka during your tenure as the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sri Lanka. Journalists have been killed, disappeared, assaulted, threatened and intimidated, access has been restricted and media institutions have been subjected to arson. Many journalists and media workers have fled Sri Lanka, including leaders of press freedom organizations.

An alarming level of impunity has prevailed and the government and the criminal justice system appear to be unwilling and/or unable to investigate, prosecute and convict those responsible. Our own inquiries indicate an alarming level of government complicity and involvement in many of these repressive actions.

This has led to many journalists and media personnel fleeing Sri Lanka and an environment of fear and self censorship.

The disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda on 24th January 2010, one year ago is one case that symbolizes the repression on freedom of expression and impunity.

Complaints have been lodged regarding this case with domestic authorities such as the Police, the National Human Rights Commission, the Attorney General, and the President and a Habeas Corpus application has been filed. Complaints have also been lodged to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary General to advise him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka. Numerous domestic and international human rights and press freedom organizations have made appeals to find Prageeth. Government officials have made promises in private to his family, to media and even in parliament.

But one year after the disappearance, we are yet to hear any news of where Prageeth is or news about what happened to him. We have also not had any formal response or update from the UN regarding complaints lodged to UN bodies.

Thus, we urge you to:
1. Update us and Prageeth's family on actions taken by the UN bodies and responses received from Sri Lankan authorities;
2. Continue to take up this case with relevant authorities at the highest level in Sri Lanka and outside;
3. Support initiatives by Prageeth's family and other concerned individuals and group's efforts to find Prageeth;
4. Make the promotion and protection of freedom of expression a key priority of the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka, with due allocation of needed resources.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

1. Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
2. Free Media Movement (FMM)
3. Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF)
4. Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA)
5. Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU)
6. South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA)

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