December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Sri Lanka

Action Needed in Sri Lanka to Preserve Press Freedom

H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa
President

Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Fax: (011.94.11) 243.0590

Your Excellency:

The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) is alarmed by the on-going violence, harassment and intimidation against journalists working in your Republic.

We refer specifically to the arson attack on the on-line newspaper, LEN (Llanka-e-News), on the night of January 1 and your government’s continued silence about the disappearance of the paper’s editorial cartoonist, Prageeth Eknelygoda, who has been missing for more than a year.

On January 24, in an open press conference, Eknelygoda’s wife, Sandhya, said she handed a letter about her husband’s case to Neil Buhne, the United Nation’s representative in Colombo. We would like to know what action your government is taking in light of this development. As you know, the on-line paper’s editor-in-chief now lives in exile because of threats made on his life.

Last March, our organization complimented you on your election and your program to bring peace and growth to your strife torn nation. In doing so, we asked that you make press freedom a central plank in your agenda. That sadly does not seem to be the case. A year later, the OPC and other international press organizations observe that there seems to have been no progress in limiting the intimidation of your working press. This is especially true of organizations that tried to cover the court martial of your electoral opponent, General Sarah Fonseka, charged with interfering in politics, and his jail sentence that began last September.

In our letter to you last March, we listed four additional instances of the kind of intimidation that we hoped might be mitigated by your new government.

According to Reporters Without Borders and other international press watchdogs, violence and intimidation is causing established journalists to self-censor coverage. But this is a loser’s game. As you know, critics of perceived or actual unfairness by their leaders are increasingly turning to social media when trusted media voices have been silenced or muted. Would it not be better to allow the established media a full voice, regardless of their diversity of views, than leave coverage of your government’s efforts primarily to social media?
Your Excellency, it is not too late to show your commitment by updating us on the status of the LEN arson investigation and your government’s efforts to find the missing Prageeth Eknelygoda, and by making it clear through enforcement that further incidents will not be tolerated.

We hope the spirit of goodwill that you sought to establish a year ago will prevail.

Respectfully yours,

Robert J. Dowling
Jeremy Main
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Ratnasiri Wickramanayake
Prime Minister

Office of the Prime Minister

No. 58 Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha
Colombo 07

Dem. Soc. Republic of Sri Lanka

Fax: (011.94.11) 257.5454

Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa

Ministry of Mass Media and Information

163, Kirulapone Mawatha
Polhengoda,
Colombo 05

Dem. Soc. Republic of Sri Lanka
Fax: (011.94.11) 251.3462

Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe

Disaster Management & Human Rights

2 Wijerama Mawatha
Colombo 7

Dem. Soc. Republic of Sri Lanka

Fax: (011.94.11) 268.1980

Mr. Victor Perera

Inspector General of Police

Sri Lanka Police Headquarters

101/1 Kew Road
Colombo 2

Dem. Soc. Republic of Sri Lanka

Fax: (011.94.11) 239.0433

H.E. Jaliya Wickramasuriya

Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the U.S.A.

Embassy of the Dem. Soc. Republic of Sri Lanka

2148 Wyoming Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20008

Fax: (202) 232.7181 



Ambassador Palitha Kohona

Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Dem. Soc. Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
630 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Fax: (212) 986.1838

H.E. Patricia A. Butenis

U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka

Embassy of the United States of America

210 Gaile Road
Colombo 03

Sri Lanka
Fax: (011.94.11) 244.9070

The Editor
Daily Mirror
Sri Lanka
editorial@dailymirror.wnl.lk

The Editor
The Island
Sri Lanka
prabath@unl.upali.lk

Acting Editor
The Sunday Leader
24, Katukurunduwatte Road
Ratmalana,
Sri Lanka
Fax : 011-94-75-365891 
editor@thesundayleader.lk