Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about the fate of five Tamil journalists of Sri Lanka, who were picked up by police in Colombo. A statement by the organization, which has been forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission, says:
Reporters without Borders is concerned about the fate of five Tamil journalists arrested by anti-terrorist police in Colombo in the past six days and urges the Sri Lankan authorities to explain why they are being held.
The anti-terrorist police are accusing the journalists of receiving money from the Tamil Tiger rebels, but after investigating, we can confirm that the funds in question came from a German foundation and from Tamil exiles. We condemn the fact the some of these journalists were badly beaten during their first few days in detention, and that this was clearly done to extract confessions from them.
The funds received by two of the journalists, V. Jasikaran and J.S. Tissanayagam, were to finance the Outreach (outreachlk.wordpress.com) website and to help Tamil students. An official with the German foundation FLICT told Reporters Without Borders that Tissanayagam, Outreach's editor, received 12,000 euros in November as part of this initiative.
Several other sources told Reporters Without Borders that Jasikaran received money from members of the Tamil exile community in Germany to help students in the east of the island.
The owner of the E-Kwality printing works and a writer known for his Tamil nationalist stance, Jasikaran was arrested in Colombo on 6 March. His computer and printing equipment were seized, and his wife, a TV producer, was also detained.
Tissanayagam, who writes for the Sunday Times newspaper as well as editing Outreach, was arrested by anti-terrorist police on 7 March. Reporter Kithsiri Wijesinghe, photographer Gayan Lasantha Ranga and video director Udayanan were arrested later the same day.
Journalist S. Sivakumar, the spokesman of the Free Media Movement, was detained for a few hours on 8 March in connection with the same case. He has been ordered to present himself to the police again.