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Sri Lanka rally held for missing journalist Eknaligoda

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PD Saranapala reports from the last battle for media freedom in Sri Lanka

A rally was held in Colombo, August 10th, as part of a campaign for more media freedom. Specifically the rally was held in remembrance of Prageeth Eknaligoda, a journalist who has now been missing for 200 days. He was abducted around the time of the presidential election in January after writing some searching articles about incumbent President Rajapakse who was running for re-election. Now the media freedom campaign has made an open appeal to all organisations that claim to defend democracy build the campaign and defend the rights of journalists.

The day started with a rally at 3pm and then a demonstration which marched to the conference hall at Viharamaadeevi stadium, where nearly 1000 people participated. Various figures from the media industry including journalists spoke. One of the headline speakers was SD Punchihewa, a lawyer who argued that the targeting of media workers was unconstitutional and had to be stopped in order to liberal democracy to grow in Sri Lanka.

Clearly the problem is that Sri Lanka is undemocratic precisely because of the instability of Sri Lankan capitalism, which despite the war coming to an end is still unable to lift most people out of poverty. Socialist Party of Sri Lanka members that attended argued that more action was needed – but currently no new plans are organised to take the campaign forwards. It is clear that in currently the campaign will not be able to prevent further attacks on media personnel unless it adopts a more confrontational attitude to the government, forcing them to take action against these disappearances and killings of the media personnel. More scrutiny must be placed on the government and independent enquiries established to find out who was involved in the attacks on the journalists.

Media freedom in Sri Lanka have suffered from severe setbacks recently. Journalists have been attacked on demonstrations by the police or by thugs who are protected by the police. Other editors have been sent to court for fraud after publishing critical articles. Amnesty international claim that 14 journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006 and around 20 have left the country.