I was shocked this morning when I heard the news that J.S. Tissainayagam, the detained Sri Lankan journalist, was sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment by the Sri Lankan High Court. Tissainayagam has been detained for the last 18 months and was tried under Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act for writing two magazine articles in 2006 critical of the government’s conduct of the war against the opposition Tamil Tigers. Amnesty International considers Tissainayagam to be a prisoner of conscience, detained and prosecuted solely for his legitimate work as a journalist, and has been calling for his immediate, unconditional release.
Organizations working in defense of press freedom reacted strongly to today’s sentence. The International Federation of Journalists condemned the sentence, calling it “brutal and inhumane.” The Committee to Protect Journalists announced today that it will honor Tissainayagam with a 2009 International Press Freedom Award. The group Reporters Without Borders said it was “appalled” by the “shameful” sentence; the group also announced today that Tissainayagam had been selected as the first winner of the newly created Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.
Please write to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and ask that J.S. Tissainayagam be released immediately and unconditionally. Thanks for any help you can give.