IFJ Hopes Bail for Tissainayagam is Step Toward Freedom

The International Federation Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the

decision by the Sri Lankan appeals courts to grant bail to senior journalist

J.S. Tissainayagam, over four months

after he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years’ jail on terrorism charges.


Tissainayagam was granted conditional

bail yesterday pending his appeal against his conviction. At an earlier hearing

of his application on December 23, Sri Lanka’s Attorney-General had

informed the court that the State had no objection to the grant of bail.


Tissainayagam, one of the first

journalists in the democratic world to be convicted on terrorism charges, is

expected to be released soon, following the finalisation of the bail process.



on March 8, 2008 by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri

Lankan police, Tissainayagam spent

six months in custody without formal charge.


At the

time of his arrest, he was the director of the online news site www.outreachsl.com. He was detained when

he contacted police to check on the status of two colleagues, V. Jasikaran and

his partner V. Valarmarthy, who had been detained a day earlier.


It was not

until August 25, 2008 that Tissainayagam

was formally indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency

Regulations for articles he wrote for the North-Eastern

Monthly magazine in 2006 and 2007.


Jasikaran was

subsequently charged under the same sections of the law as Tissainayagam and Valarmathy with the offence of

“aiding and abetting” an act of terrorism. Both Jasikaran and Valarmathy were

released unconditionally in October 2009, for lack of evidence.


“Tissainayagam’s release on bail is a welcome

reprieve from almost two years of incarceration during which he endured poor

living conditions, deteriorating health and limited access to medical support,”

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline

Park said.


“But this

decision does not allay concerns about the manner in which Sri Lanka’s

Government and authorities have undermined press freedom and independent media

by using archaic terrorism legislation to restrict and silence the work of

independent and critical journalists.”


With all respect

for the judicial process, the IFJ urges Sri Lanka’s power-holders to honour

the country’s constitutional guarantee to uphold the democratic rights of all

citizens, including journalists in their pursuit of press freedom, by granting

the immediate and unconditional repeal of Tissainayagam’s



For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919


The IFJ represents over 600,000

journalists in 125 countries worldwide