Indictment of Tissainayagam An Assault on Press Freedom in Sri Lanka



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 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.


For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919



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