By Dinidu de Alwis
The US State Department will focus on Sri Lanka’s missing cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda during the run up to the2012 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), sources from the US Embassy in Colombo told Ceylon Today.
“We are focusing on Ekneligoda as part of our look at the continued problems for journalists in Sri Lanka,” a spokesperson for the US Embassy said, adding that the island’s continued abductions, assaults and attacks on the media industry will also be highlighted.
The WPFD, 3 May, is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
May 3 was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991.
The US Embassy said the move to focus on Ekneligoda was to add pressure to the Sri Lankan Government to carry out the pursuit of justice in the case of the missing cartoonist, who was abducted and reported missing on 24 January 2010 – two days before the presidential election in which he was a supporter of the defeated candidate former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.
Speaking at the Comittee Against Torture (CAT) during its last sitting, Sri Lanka’s representative who headed the delegation, former Solicitor General Mohan Peiris said, Ekneligoda is not missing, but living in a foreign country under political asylum – a statement which was questioned by Ekneligoda’s wife and team of attorneys.
Sources said that a statement from the State Department will also be released pertaining to Ekneligoda.