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Last updated: 17 February, 2010 - Published 15:05 GMT
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President 'had no hand' in release of journalist
Local and international organisations campaigned for the release of Chandana Sirimalwatte

An opposition journalist in Sri Lanka claimed that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was not instrumental in securing his release after eighteen days in detention.

Irida Lanka editor Chandana Sirimalwatta told journalists in Colombo on Wednesday that he was released due to external pressure.

Media reports carried a media release issued by the president's media division in Sinhala saying that Mr. Rajapaksa advised the police chief to intervene in releasing journalist Sirimalwatta on bail.

The media release published in 'Lanka Truth' signed by president's media co-ordinator Wijayananda Herath says that the advise was given "on a request made by the Editor of 'Ravaya' Victor Ivan".

Disputing the presidential media release, the 'Lanka Irida' editor said that the campaign by local and international organisations persuaded the government to expedite his release.

Gangodawila magistrate Anura Kumara Herath ordered police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to release Mr. Sirimalwatta on Tuesday.

ER to 'stfle opponents'

Police failed to provide any charges against the journalist who was held under emergency regulations.

Editor Sirimalwatta told journalists that emergency regulations (ER) are used by the government to stifle it's opponents.

Prageeth Ekneligoda
Missing since January 24th

He further added that a fundamental rights petition has been flied against his detention which he called 'illegal'.

Irida Lanka is a Sinhala weekly aligned with Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) that supported the candidature of General Sarath Fonseka.

Sri Lanka's parliament extended the ER for another month on the 5th of February with only the Tamil National Alliance voting against it.

Meanwhile, opposition journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda has been missing since the 24th of January.

Media and hunman rights organisations have pointed out that finding the missing journalist is the responsibility of the government.

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