Journalists Killed for Doing Their Jobs in Pakistan

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Pakistani Journalists Protest

Pakistani journalists stage a demonstration during a protest in Karachi on June 3, 2011, against the killing of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

A year after the abduction and murder of Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, little has been done to investigate the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and their possible involvement in the murder. Meanwhile another journalist, Murtaza Razvi, was killed in April 2012, and numerous other journalists in Pakistan have reported death threats.

The death threats continue.

A government inquiry into Shahzad’s murder said it was unable to identify his killers. It speculated that any of a number of state, non-state or foreign actors, including al-Qaeda or the Taliban, could have been responsible.

True, but why no mention of the ISI? SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Six months later, no sign of missing cartoonist

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On Mar. 11, I wrote on this site about Prageeth Eknaligoda, the Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist.  He’s been missing since leaving work on Jan. 24.  Amnesty Interrnational and other organizations (like the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders) have all expressed concern and have called on the Sri Lankan government to investigate his disappearance.

Well, it’s been six months since he disappeared and we haven’t seen any evidence of an effective investigation so far.  His wife, Sandhya Eknaligoda, has repeatedly said she holds the government responsible.  This past Saturday, she reportedly went to a famous Hindu temple and prayed for help in finding her husband, having lost faith in the Sri Lankan legal process.

The Sri Lankan government needs to live up to its responsibility here.  Please write to the government and ask that it conduct a proper, effective investigation into his disappearance and hold accountable those found responsible.  Thanks.

Tissa is finally free!

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The Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam (often referred to as “Tissa“) is finally free!  As I wrote on this site earlier, Tissa had been sentenced last year to 20 years’ hard labor, after an unfair trial, for criticizing the Sri Lankan government’s conduct of the war against the Tamil Tigers in a couple magazine articles.  Amnesty International had adopted Tissa as a “prisoner of conscience,” since he was being prosecuted solely for his legitimate journalistic activities.  While the Sri Lankan government had announced on May 3  that President Rajapaksa had decided to pardon Tissa, as of June 9 the pardon still hadn’t been issued.  Nor did we know whether his rights would be fully restored, including the right to leave the country.

Well, his pardon has finally come through and he has gotten his passport back.  As the Committee to Protect Journalists has reported, Tissa arrived in Washington, DC yesterday morning.  Thank you very, very much to all those who wrote on his behalf; I’m sure it helped a lot in getting his freedom restored.

Now’s the time for the Sri Lankan government to take other steps to demonstrate its respect for media freedom and human rights, including determining the fate of the disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda and repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the emergency regulations.  I hope I’ll be able to report more good news again soon.

20-year sentence for Sri Lankan journalist

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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.

Tissainayagam was one of the journalists singled out for praise by President Obama this past May in his statement in honor of World Press Freedom Day.

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.