Sat, Jan 26, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Sri Lankans call for justice in vigil

AP, COLOMBO, Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan rights activists, lawmakers and relatives of slain and disappeared journalists on Thursday held a vigil over their abductions and killings, demanding that the government expedite investigations.

Despite being in power for four years, the government “has miserably failed to fulfill its promise to punish those responsible for attacks on journalists,” vigil co-organizer Freddie Gamage said.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena took office in 2015 promising to end a culture of impunity and ensure justice for the slain journalists.

Under his predecessor, former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, dozens of journalists were killed, abducted and tortured. Some fled the country, fearing for their lives.

In some cases, military officers were arrested and released on bail.

A total of 44 journalists and media workers were killed from 2006 to 2015, during the Rajapaksa presidency, Gamage said.

A total of 11 journalists were killed in the same period, including five who were targeted for murder and whose cases remain unsolved, the US-based nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists said.

“Investigations have been launched only into two or three cases, but so far those probes too have not been concluded and culprits have not been punished,” Gamage said. “All the other cases of attacks on journalists have been totally neglected by the authorities.”

Ajith Perera, a lawmaker and government minister, lamented the slow progress of the investigations on attacks on journalists.

“None of those responsible for attacks on media have been punished. The government should be ashamed,” he said.

In the past, the government has said that the investigations were being handled by police and that it would not interfere.

Separately on Thursday, Sandya Eknaligoda, the wife of abducted journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda, staged a sit-in protest in front of the presidential office demanding that Sirisena’s administration bring to justice the perpetrators responsible for her husband’s disappearance on Jan. 24, 2010.

Prageeth Eknaligoda wrote about corruption and nepotism, as well as Rajapaksa’s leadership of a military campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

He was abducted two days before a 2010 presidential election in which he actively supported Rajapaksa’s rival.

Several military intelligence officials have been arrested in connection with his disappearance, but they have been released on bail.

Most of the killings and attacks on journalists took place during Sri Lanka’s civil war, which ended in 2009, after government troops defeated the Tamil Tigers, who fought for a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils.

The government and the rebels were both accused of killing and abducting critics.

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