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01 September, 2009

Reporters Without Borders condemns jailing of journalist

The following is a statement by Reporters Without Borders condemning the ‘shameful’ 20-year jail sentence given to Sri Lankan Tamil journalist T. S. Tissainayagam (photo on the right)

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the “shameful” 20-year jail sentence which a Colombo high court passed today on journalist J.S. Tissainayagam on charges of supporting terrorism and inciting racial hatred in his articles.

"The imposition of this extremely severe sentence on Tissainayagam suggests that some Sri Lanka judges confuse justice with revenge,” Reporters Without Borders said. “With the help of confessions extracted by force and information that was false or distorted, the court has used an anti-terrorism law that was intended for terrorists, not for journalists and human rights activists."

The press freedom organisation added: “We strongly hope that the appeal process adheres to the facts of the case and the spirit of the law. Meanwhile, until the appeal is heard, we urge the authorities to guarantee this journalist’s physical safety and health, which has deteriorated greatly while in detention.”

Global Media Forum and Reporters Without Borders have chosen to announce today that Tissainayagam will be the first winner of the Peter Mackler Prize, a newly-created award for journalists who display great courage and professional integrity in countries where press freedom is not respected.

The prize will be awarded at a ceremony presided over by Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli at the National Press Club in Washington on 2 October. The award honours the memory of veteran Agence France-Presse reporter and editor Peter Mackler, who died last year.

When a Reporters Without Borders representative met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse last October in Colombo, the president pledged to examine the Tissainayagam case.

Aged 45, Tissainayagam, wrote for the Colombo-based Sunday Times newspaper and edited, a website targeted at Sri Lanka’s Tamil population. The charges on which he was convicted include taking money from the Tamil Tiger rebels to fund the website. In fact, Reporters Without Borders established that the site was funded by a German aid project.

Tissainayagam has been detained since 7 March 2008, when he was arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Division. He spent his first five months in detention without any charges being brought against him. Judge repeatedly extended detention orders and rejected requests for his release on bail.

After five months in detention, during which many national and international press freedom organisations appealed for his release, he was suddenly transferred to Colombo’s Magazine prison, which is notorious for the physical mistreatment of Tamil detainees. It was reported at the time that he had been beaten.

During his initial period in detention, Tissainayagam was allowed only sporadic visits by his family and his lawyer and was denied the medicine he needs for tuberculosis and infections linked to the scabies that he contracted in prison.

Tissainayagam is the first Sri Lankan journalist to be convicted under the anti-terrorism law. In fact, he is one of the few journalists anywhere in the world to be accused of terrorism because of their reporting.

The origin of the charges against him boils down to two articles published in 2006 in North-Eastern, a magazine he edited that no longer exists. The magazine’s printer, Jasiharan, and his wife are also charged in connection with the case.

Tissainayagam’s family and lawyers have said he will appeal against his conviction.

Vincent Brossel
Asia-Pacific Desk
Reporters Without Borders
33 1 44 83 84 70

Following are links to material relating to the case of T.S. Tissainayagam, Sri Lankan Tamil journalist, who has been sentenced to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment on charges of aiding terrorists, as well as some of his writings. Source: Tamil Nation website

1. Journalist Tissainayagam's Arbitrary Detention - Appeal by Amnesty International
Jasikaren’s wife the previous day. When arrested J. S. Tissainayagam was not ... not fulfilled, J. S. Tissainayagam suffers from ... concern that J. S. Tissainayagam is being

Leader, 8 April 2001, p. 10; J.S. Tissainayagam, “Rape case will ... p. 10. 66 – J.S. Tissainayagam, “Rape case will ... April 2001. 67 – J.S. Tissainayagam, “Is rape just

3. Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam indicted on terrorist charges
Murder of Journalists > Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam indicted on ... Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam indicted on ... ago. "We condemn J.S. Tissainayagam's long detention

4. Journalist Tissainayagam's detention extended for 90 days, still held without...
Journalists (IFJ) is extremely disturbed by a new 90-day extension of a detention order against journalist J.S. Tissainayagam , who has been held without charge in Sri Lanka since

5. The Conflict in Sri Lanka: Ground Realities - International Federation of...
Tamils living in the US. J. S. Tissainayagam has a M.A in International ... Wakeley Paul 3. The Strategy of Delay - J. S. Tissainayagam 4. The War Imperative - S Sathananthan 5

6. Joseph Pararajasingham - V6.indd
Strategy of Delay ... 12 By J. S. Tissainayagam The War Imperative ... 22 By S ... Association of Tamils living in the US. J. S. Tissainayagam has a M.A in International Relations

7. Tamil journalist shot dead by Sri Lanka aligned group
Wilson Gnanadas, news editor; J.S. Tissainayagam; Sunday Times: Anthony David; Shelani de Silva; Faraza Farook; Nilika de Silva; Taniya Fernando; Chris Kamalandran; Dunstan

8. Violence Against Women in Sri Lanka - Report by World Organisation Against...
Leader, 8 April 2001, p. 10; J.S. Tissainayagam, “Rape casankan tamil journaliste will ... p. 10. 66 – J.S. Tissainayagam, “Rape case will ... April 2001. 67 – J.S. Tissainayagam, “Is rape just

9. Tamilfile jan15.qxd
Implement CFA, or quit Jaffna (J. S. Tissainayagam Northeastern Monthly -January 2006) Ever since the LTTE’s Batticaloa-Amparai commander, Karuna, decided to raise the flag of

10. Selected Writings - J.S.Tissainayagam
National Forum > Selected Writings - J.S.Tissainayagam> ... Selected Writings - J.S.Tissainayagam, Eelam J. S. Tissainayagam has a ... Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam indicted on

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