FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Media Release: Sri Lanka
May 6, 2010

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is awaiting details and verification that senior Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam will receive a full presidential pardon for his conviction on charges of “causing communal disharmony”.

The IFJ wishes to verify that the reported pardon for Tissainayagam is unconditional, and that Tissainayagam’s rights are fully restored, including his right to safety and protection.

“Tissainayagam, his family, colleagues and the international community require official confirmation that Tissainayagam’s full civil, political and human rights have been restored and he is able to live and work freely and safely,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

Tissainayagam was first detained in March 2008. He was held for more than five months until being charged in August 2008 under anti-terror and emergency laws. He was accused of attempting to cause racial or communal disharmony through his articles on human rights issues published in the North-Eastern Monthly in 2006 and 2007.

Tissainayagam was convicted on August 31 last year to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment under Sri Lanka’s draconian anti-terror and emergency laws. It was one of the harshest sentences ever imposed on a journalist in a democratic country, on the basis of the content of their professional work.

Tissainayagam was granted bail in January this year while awaiting an appeal trial.

On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Sri Lanka’s Minister for External Affairs, G.L. Peiris, reportedly told a press conference that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would pardon Tissainayagam.

However, the IFJ is yet to see official confirmation of the pardon and to confirm that all necessary judicial procedures have been enacted to restore his rights and provide assurance of his safety.

The IFJ urges Sri Lanka’s Government to clarify the details of the reported pardon as a high priority.

“The IFJ will be relieved if there is confirmation of a full and unconditional pardon, and there is assurance by the highest authorities in Sri Lanka that they will take responsibility for ensuring Tissainayagam’s right to safety is not violated,” White said.

The IFJ also calls on the international community and press freedom advocates to maintain their commitment and attention to Tissainayagam’s case to ensure his rights are fully restored.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide

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