Sri Lanka is now rated the 4th most dangerous place in the world for journalists. More than fifteen journalists are believed to have been killed there since 2006. These include Lasantha Wickramatunga, the editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, who was murdered on 8 January 2009 as he drove to work. Wickramatunga was widely known for his criticisms of corruption, governmental policies and the civil war.

Despite the end of the conflict, journalists continue to be killed, physically assaulted, abducted, and harassed by both government personnel and members of armed groups for attempting to report the truth. Newspapers have been seized and burned, newspaper offices have been vandalised and printing equipment destroyed.

PEN sent appeals on behalf of Tamil journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam (JS) Tissainayagam, sentenced to twenty years’ hard labour for his reporting on the war, accused of causing ‘communal disharmony’ Tissa received a presidential pardon on 3 May 2010 proving that external pressure can make a difference in Sri Lanka.

Since the presidential election concluded on 26 January 2010, there has been a further clampdown on dissent. This has included arrests, death threats against several prominent newspaper editors and intimidation of independent web-based media. On the day of the elections, political cartoonist and opposition journalist, Prageeth Eknaligoda, was abducted as he left his office and has been missing ever since.

The outside world remains largely ignorant of the violations of free expression in Sri Lanka.

We urge PEN members to visit and add your name to the petition. Please write about the Sri Lanka campaign, send regular appeals and keep others informed about the government’s suppression of free speech in Sri Lanka.

For more information on the case of Prageeth Eknaligoda who has been missing since January and to send appeals, please click here.
Published: May 12, 2010