Thursday, October 22, 2009

Journalist complains of death threats and unknown persons pursuing him

Mr. Senaka Ekanayake, the editor of SATANA, a local newspaper, complained of constant death threats received over the last few days and of unknown persons visiting his house in search of him, in a telephone interview given to the Asian Human Rights Commission yesterday, October 20, 2009. He further mentioned that despite of complaints having been made to the Sri Lankan police and other authorities he has not received any protection. He is now living in hiding, fearing for his life and is unable to continue with his work as a journalist.

The former editor of the same newspaper, Rohana Kumara, was assassinated on September 7, 1999 after he published information against the government of the day. Kumara’s assassination is a well known case in Sri Lanka and to-date; no one has been arrested or prosecuted for this crime.

Mr. Ekanayake has been arrested and remanded twice for two periods of ten months relating to his investigative journalism and held under provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. On both occasions he was released as there was no evidence to proceed against him. On the first occasion he was conducting an investigation into disappearances in the Kalpitya area. While investigating this matter he received taped interviews done by a group of people in the area against the Officer-in-Charge of the local police station which revealed that the officer was engaged in corrupt practices to extort money from various small businessmen like illicit liquor traders and fisher folk. Mr. Ekanayake was stopped at a checkpoint by eight offices dressed in civilian clothes that had been waiting for him. He was taken to the Kalpitiya Police Station and severely assaulted with S-lon pipes, punched and kicked. As a result of the assault he lost two teeth.

Following this assault he was brought before a Magistrate’s Court on false charges of trying to sully the reputation of the President of Sri Lanka and engaging in false propaganda. Whilst in detention he was questioned by a senior intelligence officer about the information he was collecting and as to whether such information was being sent to foreign journals and human rights organisations. However, there was no prosecution for any of these charges.

Later he was again arrested while collecting information relating to disappearances and other human rights abuses. He was remanded on false charges and released after a further ten months.

Ever since his release he has been receiving death threats and in the recent weeks there has been unknown persons arriving at his house at night to make inquiries about him. He states that he is able to remain safe only because he is in hiding and he is afraid that his life is in danger by these persons who are pursuing him due to his work as a journalist.

© Asian Human Rights Commission

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