Government calls on journalists in exile to return

Tuesday, 2 June 2015 01:45 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shanika Sriyananda

The Government has invited Sri Lankan journalists who are in exile to return to the country as the present situation is conducive and safe for them to return and work.

Ministry of Media Secretary Karunaratne Paranavithana said that the Ministry had approached some of the journalists in exile and invited them to return as they could work freely under the present environment.

“Some of them have indicated that they are happy in their respective countries and will not return due their personal obligations. Three journalists who were in exile returned from Nepal after the earth quake disaster in Nepal and they are now working here,” he told the Daily FT.

He said that the Government would take all efforts to maintain the freedom of the press and also to do justice for the journalists who were disappeared and killed during the previous regime.

“We want to tell the world that Sri Lanka is a safe place for journalists,” he noted.

Paranavithana said cases of disappearances and killings of journalists were swept under the carpet for many years but the Sirisena Government would reopen them soon to carry out proper investigations to do justice for the journalists.

He said the Media Ministry would furnish all the details gathered from the media institutions and human rights groups to facilitate the Police to conduct the investigations.

“We will bring the culprits before the law soon,” he said.

According to the latest World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, Sri Lanka has been ranked 165th out of 180 countries.

Over 138 cases of attacks on journalists and media institutions were reported during the past decade in Sri Lanka, according to the Free Media Movement. It states that 50 journalists have fled the country and 80 journalists, staff or owners of media organisations have been killed during the last 26 years.

Meanwhile, President Maithripala Sirisena last week reiterated the Government’s strong desire to renew investigations into the cases of journalists who were disappeared or killed during the past.

Speaking at a ceremony held to hand over a cash grant to wife of missing cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda, he said not only the killings and disappearances of journalists but threats and other challenges faced by the journalists would be probed by the new Government soon.

The cash grant was the monetary reward of the Rule of Law Award for 2015 won by the former Bar Association President Upul Jayasuriya from the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association. He has decided to grant the money to Ekneligoda’s family.

“We will hold impartial investigations into these cases and do justice to the families of those journalists who were disappeared or killed,” the President said, addressing a gathering at the Sri Lanka Bar Association Auditorium.

Sandya Eknaligoda, wife of the disappeared cartoonist, said that she was very happy to receive the cash award from the President Sirisena and she was hopeful that the Government would do justice for her family as well as all journalists who have been killed, disappeared or forced to flee the country.

“I and my two sons are still hopefully waiting to receive any information about him. He disappeared five years ago and no proper investigation has been done so far into his disappearance. Now, I have faith in this Government that it will have a proper probe into it,” she said, adding that she was questioned by the CID a few months ago to get more information about Eknaligoda’s disappearance.