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Sri Lankan journalists demand information on colleague said missing for 200 days

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Journalists protested and demanded Sri Lanka's government disclose information Tuesday on the disappearance of a journalist who supported the challenger in this year's presidential election.

Prageeth Ekneligoda, a political columnist and cartoonist with Lankaenews.com, is believed to have been abducted while on his way home from work on Jan. 24 two days before the vote.

"Now 200 days have passed since his abduction, but there is no any information about him. We urge the government to release the reports on this investigation," said Gnanasiri Kottigoda, president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association.

He said the government should make public about what happened to Ekneligoda "whether he is alive or not."

Nearly 150 journalists, rights activists and opposition lawmakers staged a sit-in and a protest march in the capital, Colombo, urging the government to expedite investigations into his whereabouts.

Police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody told The Associated Press on Tuesday that investigations were still continuing and no one has been arrested.

Opposition candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka lost to the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January vote and afterward was arrested on accusations he planned his political career while still in the army a crime in Sri Lanka.

Lankaenews.com has said Ekneligoda's criticism of Rajapaksa may have been the reason for his alleged abduction. Some government officials have claimed the journalist staged his disappearance to embarrass the government before the election.

Media rights groups say Sri Lanka is among the most dangerous places for journalists. Amnesty International says at least 14 Sri Lankan media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006. They blame the government for failing to properly investigate several other attacks on media and arrest the culprits.

Last month, a dozen men armed with assault rifles and petrol bombs launched a pre-dawn attack on the offices of privately owned Voice of Asia Network.

The television management said the assailants assaulted security guards before setting fire to the building that houses the TV station, destroying its studios, control room and library. One guard and another employee were injured. No arrest has been made so far.


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