FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges Sri Lanka’s Government to speed up its processing of a full and unconditional presidential pardon for senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam.

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, who was sentenced last year to 20 years’ jail on accusations of terrorism-related activities.

On May 11, Attorney-General Mohan Peiris said that the pardon would be granted swiftly on the condition that Tissainayagam’s appeal against his conviction and sentence was simultaneously withdrawn, according to the local Daily Mirror. The Mirror also reported that the Attorney-General was to process the pardon during the week ending Friday, May 14.

However, two weeks after the announcement of a pardon, the details and any conditions remain unknown. There has been no official confirmation of when all necessary judicial procedures will be enacted to formally issue the pardon and fully restore Tissainayagam’s rights.

“Sri Lanka’s President and Attorney-General must provide a clear and transparent timeline for when Tissainayagam’s unconditional pardon and full restoration of rights will be enacted,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

Tissainayagam was initially detained in March 2008. He was held for more than five months until being charged in August 2008 under counter-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 counter-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 appeal. While no longer held in the notoriously dangerous Magazine prison, there are continuing concerns for his safety.

The IFJ calls on the international community and press freedom advocates to maintain their commitment and attention to Tissainayagam’s case to ensure that Sri Lanka’s Government lives up to the promise of a full pardon and restoration of Tissainayagam’s rights.

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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