01 March 2016

On Ekneligoda, in spite of Ekneligoda and his pals



Six years ago, I wrote about Prageeth Ekneligoda in the state-owned 'Daily News'. This around the time he was picked up as the poster-boy of NGO racketeers strutting around as champions of human rights.  Ekneligoda, as someone recently observed, was no journalist.  He drew some cartoons and they were nice, but there was nothing unique in them.  He wrote soft-porn for dodgy websites.  He has never been seen at a press conference.  But that's how it is.  It is 'received wisdom' that if you want to defend a dodgy character it is useful to call him/her a journo.  Smart.  Today Ekneligoda is back in the news.  Today we are also seeing the 'new', 'different', 'good' government of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe meddling with the media in ways that Mahinda Rajapaksa did only towards the tail-end of his tenure.   It won't be called 'white-vanning' but whatever label picked it might very well come to pass that those 'dealt with' in that way would not be 'journalists' but journalists! 

Some years ago a newspaper whose editor and editorial policy was so uncritically pro-UNP and operated on the my enemy’s enemy is my friend that it was full of pro-LTTE content, observed, editorially, that a Government with a 5th class media policy cannot complain about 3rd rate journalism.  I think I a reverse of those figures would be more apt.

The Government does not have a first rate media policy but we’ve certainly seem far worse situations over the past 30 years or so.  My contention has been that the Government is overly worried about criticism because the critics, apart from a handful of people like Rajpal Abeynayake and Namini Wijedasa, are absolutely compromised by corruption, fraud, political loyalties and even complicity in the designs of the LTTE.   All the Government had to do was give them enough rope and watch them hang themselves.

The main outfits whining for media rights, such as the Free Media Movement and the Working Journalists Association, are full of people who don’t deserve to be called journalists and who, by their political preferences and shady operations, were the laughing stock of the general public.  Sure, there were some who were more principled than the herd, like Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, but by and large these bunch of jokers should not have been perceived as a threat. 

The latest ‘case’ is the disappearance of a man by the name of Prageeth Ekneligoda, a journalist attached to the website referred to as ‘lankaenews’.  Lankaenews is not just an anti-Government website. It is anti-Rajapaksa, anti-civility, anti-dignity, anti-integrity etc etc., and sometimes one wonders if it is a porn site.  The people who run the site have absolutely no ethics and I doubt if they have ever heard of a term called ‘responsible journalism’.  Personally, I think the website did more damage to the Government’s opponents than it did to the Government. 

Now there are people, largely anti-Rajapaksa and pro-LTTE, bent on destabilizing Sri Lanka who are using Ekneligoda’s disappearance as ‘another example’ of the Governments (alleged) witch hunt of media personnel.  I don’t consider Ekneligoda a journalist nor lankaenews a serious media operation.  A fifth-grade jungle paper (kelae paththare) would show more professionalism and media ethics than lankaenews.  And yet, there’s no getting around the fact that Ekneligoda is ‘missing’.

I don’t buy the view that all journalists and self-titled journalists that go missing or are beaten up are ‘victims’ of violence sourced to high ranking members of the political leadership.  On the other hand, since the Government is mandated to ensure rule of law and guarantee the security of all citizens, there is some culpability that slips to the state when such things happen.

We don’t know if Ekneligoda was abducted or is in hiding.  Gayan Kumara Weerasingha, writing in the Sunday Lakbima News of February 28, 2010 details various theories about Ekneligoda’s whereabouts and doings.  Nothing is confirmed.  We are asked to wait and see, and assured that the true story will come out soon. 

I am disturbed by this disappearance and I am sure the Government is too, especially if there’s no involvement of anyone in high ranking places in the regime.  We need to know what happened to this man.  If indeed he’s the charlatan that he appears to be, then the true story behind this ‘disappearance’ will embarrass all those media-vultures who think the sun shines out of their ‘you-know-what’.  On the other hand, if indeed he is a victim of a more sinister operation, then the Government really needs to take serious note of unruly, indiscipline and vile elements within its fold.

What really harms Ekneligoda and those who wax lyrical about him and rights issues is the fact that the man is not a principled journalist in the first place.  Lankaenews, for example, ran a story about a politician’s sexual exploits that should get the award for the most vicious and irresponsible piece of writing during the year 2009.  Ekneligoda was supposed to have written the piece.  He had weaved in enough ‘facts’ to make it clear who he was talking about.  He doesn’t have the guts to come out and say this is Mr So and So.  That’s character assassination.  And pornography. 

Ekneligoda then is not a journalist, but a man with a perverted mind and badly requires a visit to a psychiatrist, along with his pals at lankaenews.  Still, he is a citizen and deserves all the rights and guarantees that the state owes the rest of the citizenry.  ‘Where is Ekneligoda?’ then is a legitimate question and one which we hope will be answered soon.

Had Ekneligoda been a serious and responsible journalist or an exemplary citizen this ‘disappearance’ could have really embarrassed the Government. But Ekneligoda is Ekneligoda and lankaenews is lankaenews.  Don’t believe me.  Read lankaenws. The website carried a letter purportedly written by Ekneligoda as reply to a letter written to him by the daughter of a friend who had been ‘disappeared’ during the UNP-JVP bheeshanaya of the late eighties.  Ekneligoda is supposed to have authored this after he was abducted and released in August last year (that his abductors have not been identified is also a problem, not because he is a ‘journalist’ but a citizen; again a black mark that the Government can do without).

What is interesting in this missive is the fact that Ekneligoda deems it necessary to fall on his knees and worship, again and again, a man called Sunanda Deshapriya, a charlatan of the first order who made bucks out of activism and stole bucks from the Centre for Policy Alternatives and dares not step into Sri Lanka for fear of arrest for perpetrating numerous acts of fraud.  Sunanda is Ekneligoda’s hero.  Need I say more? 

What this goes to show is the poverty of anti-Government activism in this country.  Intoxicated by hatred, petrified by monsters of its own creation, bedding with men and women who have absolutely no integrity and are largely discredited in the eyes of the general public, these people need to do a serious re-think about who they are, what they do and what they can achieve.  As things stand, they are not in a position to help Ekneligoda; each time they open their mouths they hurt him. 

We need to know where Ekneligoda is, let me repeat, in spite of who he is, what he did/does for a living and who his friends are.  We need to know where he is because he is a fellow-citizen.  We should not let the antics of lankaenews distract us from this important quest.

And we need brand organization to champion the cause of media rights.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at malindasenevi@gmail.com
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2 comments:

Prometheus said...

//apart from a handful of people like Rajpal Abeynayake and Namini Wijedasa, are absolutely compromised by corruption//
I don't know about Namini, but a person who became a court jester for the then regime in a tasteless radio show, who was rewarded by trips to Geneva from Government funds being called as above board makes me laugh - more so when i know that Malinda himself was someone who treated Rajapaksas with kid gloves, who worked at a media institution belonging to a stooge of Rajapakshas, a media institution that had one of editors thrown out and then attacked in broad daylight -
And of course Malinda forgets killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga in a HSZ, and the subsequent cover up - Lasantha, a man undaunted by high and mighty , very much unlike Malinda who became putty at the hands of Rajapakshas ( for reasons I hate to cite here, lest it would upset his admirers) - is that Media Freedom Mr Malinda ? Of course I know you have no answer

Malinda Seneviratne said...

'Trips to Geneva' a reward? What rubbish! Rajpal never got a cent that he had not legitimately earned. You are entitled to your views of how I treated the Rajapaksas. Lasantha, at best, was a dubious operator, playing all sides and therefore could be 'brave'. He was a good investigative journalist, a poor writer and hopelessly compromised politically. No reason to attack him and this I've pointed out frequently and faulted the government for doing nothing by way of investigating the murder. Feel free to write anything you want about me. We all work in companies owned by people who have their political loyalties. I've written for the Daily News, Mirror, the Nation, Sunday Island, Daily Island, Observer and Lakbima News...AT THE SAME TIME....I guess I was servicing the stooges of various politicians. Lasantha was working for the UNP....but you don't question that, do you? I never gave people blank cheques. Lasantha did. Pity. Most of what you've written here is based on YOUR preferences. That's fine with me. Enjoy my blog and thanks for visiting! :)