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.
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.
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
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
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000
journalists in 125 countries worldwide