Friday, September 18, 2009

Sri Lankan journalist jailed for 20 years

Sri Lanka’s Terrorist Investigation Division arrested J.S. Tissainayagam, the editor of news web site OutreachSL, and today he was sentenced to 20 years in prison under anti-terrorism laws.

The charges against Tissainayagam cite a magazine, North Eastern Monthly, which the journalist edited in 2006. Two charges relate to articles Tissainayagam wrote for the magazine.

The Sri Lankan government said the articles incited communal disharmony, an offense under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. J.S. Tissainayagam, a Sri Lankan Tamil, endured long detention, harsh charges and subsequent sentencing to 20 years in prison for publishing a magazine, which should not constitute an offence.

This is the latest step by the Sri Lankan government to intimidate journalists. Sri Lankan Government Minister denied that Sri Lankan journalist had been jailed for criticizing the government. “Some of his publications were designed to embarrass the Sri Lankan government” Sri Lankan minister said


  1. Thambi

    SRI LANKA was always a hard place for journalists; but by any standards, 20 years’ jail is a harsh penalty for a newsman doing his job. That term was meted out to J.S. Tissainayagam on terrorism charges.

    Such crimes have long been endemic in Sri Lanka. The government & military junta is committed only to a law of impunity!!

    61 yrs of self-rule (since independence from Britain in 1948) has but fuelled a pseudo-Buddhist dictatorship that has eliminated its Tamil population to second-class citizens.

    Dharmeratnam Sivaram
    Aiyathurai Nadesan
    Mylvaganam Nimalrajan

    make up a long list of Tamil writers killed by government death squads.

    Why, even Lasantha Wickrematunge, a leading Sinhalese journalist was assassinated early this year. His crime, being a conscience of truth!

    Tissainayagam also gave voice to the struggles of the oppressed, knowing the risks to his own life. As others before him, he too has paid a huge price!

  2. Thamil

    20 years’ jail is a harsh penalty for a journalist, J.S. Tissainayagam.

    He, as it transpired in his trial, assisted Mahinda Rajapaksa in the late 1980’s to translate documents regarding disappearances of the time, was sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for writing a small article on similar matters. The difference of treatment of Tissainayagam then and now explain quite a lot about the sinister politics in Sri Lanka.

    In the late 1980s, Mahinda Rajapaksha cleverly used the popular anger against the existing government which caused over 30,000 disappearances and many other forms of violence. There was also international condemnation of these matters. However, the manner in which this situation was handled by Rajapaksha in Sri Lanka was very different to similar issues of disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings handled in countries like Argentina and Chile. In those countries, meticulous documentation was made and evidence preserved of the cases of the disappeared, and for many years to follow there were huge demands for the prosecution of offenders. That struggle for justice made significant changes in these countries, which later brought about improvements which would make the happening of similar occurrences difficult.

    Not so in Sri Lanka. Mahinda Rajapaksha did not fight for justice for the disappeared and their families. He never called for prosecution of those offenders.

    Mahinda Rajapaksha promised officially to change the Executive Presidency and to bring about a more accountable government witch checks and balances against the Executive. This he failed to do and by now any possibility of him doing that does not exist.

    The real political tragedy of Sri Lanka is that while everybody agrees that the system of Executive Presidency is creating one monster after another, who destroy all institutions and the foundations of all freedoms, there is no political will to abolish this system.

    Such crimes have long been endemic in Sri Lanka. The government & military junta is committed only to a law of impunity!!