The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed that Sri
Lankan authorities are taking the unprecedented step of applying the country’s draconian
anti-terrorism law to seek to condemn senior journalist J.S. Tissainayagam for pursuing his profession.
After being held for five months without charge, Tissainayagam has been formally
indicted by the High Court of Sri Lanka under the Prevention of Terrorism Act
(PTA) (1979), according to the Free Media Movement, an IFJ affiliate.
The indictment reportedly refers to the printing, publishing and
distribution of the North Eastern Monthly between June 1, 2006, and June 1, 2007; alleged offences to
do with bringing the Government into disrepute; and the violation of 2006 Emergency
Regulations with regard to allegations of aiding and abetting terrorist
organisations through raising money for the magazine.
In the almost 30 years since the PTA was adopted as a “temporary”
measure, no individual journalist or media entity has been charged under the
In a country where journalism and journalists already face extreme
threats and pressures to self-censor, the indictment is an unprecedented effort
by the state to stifle press freedom.
decision by Sri Lankan authorities to charge a journalist on the allegation
that his professional work is an act of terrorism is an extreme effort by Sri Lanka’s
Government to shut down independent journalism and voices,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
The FMM said
that the 2006 Emergency Regulations contravene fundamental rights guaranteed
under Sri Lanka’s
Constitution and international law. “With the indictment of Mr Tissainayagam
this week on what is factually an extremely weak foundation, our worst fears
with regard to the dangers of such authoritarian and unconscionable legislation
have been confirmed,” it said.
Tissainayagam was arrested on March 7 after checking with police on the welfare
of N. Jesiharan, the owner of E-Kwality
Printing Press, and Jesiharan’s partner, Valamarthi, who were arrested previously
and continue to be held by the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID).
Tissainayagam was then held for five months without charge under the
custody of the TID. At the time of his arrest he was the editor of newly
founded website www.outreachsl.com. Four Outreach colleagues were also arrested about
the same time but were released soon after.
joins the FMM in unequivocally
condemning the PTA and Emergency Regulations framework as oppressive, imprecise,
susceptible to unchallengeable government manipulation and inconsistent with
international standards governing the balance between legitimate national
security considerations and freedom of expression.
The IFJ and the FMM call on the international community to defend press
freedom in Sri Lanka
by denouncing the PTA and the indictment against Tissainayagam.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 in 122 countries worldwide