after Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was detained without charge in Sri Lanka,
international media rights organisations remain deeply worried about his
continuing detention on charges of terrorism.
the anniversary of his detention on March 7, 2008, the International Press
Freedom Mission is calling for the unconditional release of Tissainayagam, who
has been subjected to arbitrary court adjournments and is suffering ill health.
Tissainayagam and the use of the
Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) against him have set an alarming precedent in
efforts to silence independent voices and criticism in Sri Lanka, especially in regard to reporting on the
conduct of the war in Sri
Lanka," the press freedom organisations said.
the editor of OutreachSL,
and a respected columnist with the
Sunday Times, was detained on March 7, 2008 by the Terrorism Investigation Division
(TID) of the Sri Lankan police force. He was detained as he sought to check on
the welfare of his colleagues, Jasiharan and Vallamarthy, who had been taken into custody the previous day.
was held without charge for more than five months. Successive courts extended his
detention with no explanation. During
this time he was granted only sporadic access to family, legal advice and
medical attention for a degenerative illness.
hearings were regularly postponed. Tissainayagam's lawyers lodged a fundamental
rights petition to seek interim relief, on the grounds of arbitrary arrest, torture,
ethnic discrimination and a denial of equality of protection under law. It was
On August 25, indictments were
issued against Tissainayagam, Jasiharan and Vallarmathy in the High Court of
The charges were laid under the PTA,
a draconian law that has remained on Sri Lanka's statute books despite
being introduced in 1979 as an ostensibly temporary measure. The Government has
repeatedly rejected calls for bail.
- 1. The accused together with unknown persons conspired to commit an offence by intending to cause the commission of acts of violence through inciting communal disharmony by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, through the printing or distribution of the publication North Eastern Monthly magazine.
- 2. An offence by the accused himself has been committed by intending to cause the commission of acts of violence through inciting racial or communal disharmony by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, through the printing or distribution of the publication North Eastern Monthly Magazine.
- 3. The third charge under the Emergency Regulations of 2006 relates to acting in furtherance of specified terrorist activities, ("specified terrorist activities" being defined as offences under the PTA) by contributing or collecting or obtaining information relating to the purpose of terrorism through the collection of funds for the North Eastern Monthly magazine.
The charges against
Tissainayagam refer to two articles he wrote in 2006 for the North-Eastern
Monthly, in which he criticises the Government's military campaign and its
impact on civilians.
Tissainayagam is the first Sri Lankan
journalist formally charged under the PTA and one of less than a
handful of journalists facing counter-terrorism charges in any country with a
democratically elected government.
November 17, Tissainayagam was suddenly moved from a remand prison to the
notorious Magazine Prison in Colombo,
which is known for violence against Tamil prisoners. Reports at the time said
he showed signs of being physically tortured.
International Mission says that: "Tissainayagam's health and access to
necessary medical treatment remain a major concern having contracted both
tuberculosis and acute infected scabies over the last number of months".
international Mission remains committed to the
release of both Tissainayagam, as well as his
colleagues Jasiharan and Vallamarthy,
and appeals to authorities in Sri
Lanka to abide by internationally recognised
standards to ensure their unconditional release.
Notes to the
the International Press Freedom Mission to Sri
Lanka has conducted three missions to Sri Lanka.
includes and is supported by the following international organizations:
Committee to Protect Journalists
International Federation of
International Media Support (IMS)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
World Association of Newspapers