SRI LANKA: TAMIL JOURNALIST SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS OF HARD LABOUR
Popular Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam has been sentenced to 20 years hard labour on charges of supporting terrorism and inciting racial hatred,becoming the first journalist to be convicted under Sri Lanka's draconian anti-terrorism law, report Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ),Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other IFEX members.
An English-language columnist for the Sri Lankan "Sunday Times" and editor of the news website OutreachSL, Tissainayagam was arrested on 7 March 2008.
He spent five months in prison without charge before his indictment in
August 2008 for promoting terrorism through the magazine "Northeastern
Monthly", which he briefly published in 2006. The magazine criticised the government's role in the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels and accused authorities of withholding food and other essential items from
On 31 August, a High Court judge ruled that Tissainayagam's articles
violated the law because they were aimed at creating "communal disharmony."
The court also found that he had received money from the LTTE to fund his website, but RSF has established that the site was funded by a German aid project.
"The imposition of this extremely severe sentence on Tissainayagam suggests that some
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which has been campaigning tirelessly for his release, Tissainayagam was repeatedly tortured and denied medical treatment while in prison.
Despite the end of the war, the Sri Lankan state continues to attack
journalists who do not support its policies.
According to the International Press Institute (IPI), 12 journalists have been killed in
CPJ announced that it will honour Tissainayagam with a 2009 International Press Freedom Award. Meanwhile, the Globe Media Forum and RSF report 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."
Related stories on IFEX.org:
- Journalist sentenced to 20-year jail term under terror law:
Please write polite letters to the Sri Lankan authorities calling for:
- The immediate and unconditional release of prisoner of conscience, J.S. Tissainayagam who has been targeted for his work as a journalist;
- Protection of the rights to life, liberty and security of media workers in compliance with Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law;
- An end to Sri Lanka's climate of impunity for attacks on the media which has made it impossible to get an accurate impartial picture of what is happening in the country.
His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Fax: + 94 11 2446657
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Salutation: Your Excellency
His Excellency Dayananda Rupasoma Perera
High Commission for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
333 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 1204
Ottawa, ON, K1P 1C1
Fax: + 613 238-8448
Salutation: Your Excellency
The conflict in Sri Lanka is between government forces, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and armed Tamil groups alleged to be aligned with the government. The conflict in the north and east of Sri Lanka has continued to escalate since the end of a ceasefire agreement on 16 January 2008. There is no independent reporting of the conflict and media coverage of war has effectively been silenced – through threats, restrictions and violence. The restrictions placed on freedom of expression in Sri Lanka far exceed those which may legitimately be imposed for reasons such as national security. Violations of journalists’ right to life and freedom from torture and ill-treatment can never be justified in the name of national security and constitute violations of Sri Lanka’s obligations under international law.
At least 14 media workers have been unlawfully killed since 2006 and others have been arbitrarily detained, tortured and allegedly disappeared. There is a strong need for media freedom in Sri Lanka, where deaths on all sides are very high and large numbers of civilians are caught in the crossfire. All parties to the conflict are responsible for grave violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law.
--------------- The Newyork Times ---------------------