Journalist J.S. Tissainayagam released on bail: Implications for freedom of expression

Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was enlarged on bail today pending the appeal of his conviction under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Groundviews spoke with Asanga Welikala, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, for his views on this development and its implications for media freedom and the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. For a Sinhala interview with Asanga, click on Vikalpa Video here.

Groundviews repeatedly flagged the case of Tissainayagam as a significant affront to media freedom and the freedom of expression. Nimalka Fernando, a leading human rights activist, even called his conviction a travesty of justice.

A compelling article on Tissanaiyagam’s case, written by a supporter of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government and read well over five thousand times to date is The sentencing J.S Tissainayagam: Not in my name! by Sandun Ratnaweera. Sandun’s article, published on Groundviews in September 2009, highlighted a vital point:

“I heard today that Daya Master the LTTE Media head had been released on bail and that according to the Daily Mirror the CID found that they had committed “no crime under the prevention of terrorism act.” If Daya Master, whose only livelihood for the last 30 years was blatant LTTE propaganda and who obviously drew a pay check from the LTTE every month is, in the eyes of our courts, not guilty of any crime under the PTA, I am really at a loss to understand the sentence handed down to Tissainayagam.”

It is a point no one from Government, to date, has even attempted to answer.

  • TrueLankan

    Journalism should not be taken as another term to “Freedom of expression”. Usually jernallist use this cover to propergate the agenda they represent, right or wrong. Some one should control them, not by themselves. Every one need the law to be in force to maintain descipline, but Media want to live above it and take cover of “Freedom of expression”. This is not right. If one does wrong to a country, he much be punished and the media he represent must not be seen any more.

  • james

    @ TrueLankan – Please change your name, as your comment is a shame to all true Sri Lankans.

  • wijayapala

    Question- was Tissanayagam a journalist? If so, what is the definition of a journalist?

    How many people in CPA have read his journalism?

  • Heshan

    “Usually jernallist use this cover to propergate”

    I think a little more time invested in English journalism might do you some good.

  • Observer

    Speaking of freedom of expression. Ravi Karunaratne (UNP) has filed a law suit against Derana TV for Rs 100,000,000 because they covered a press conference. A press conference where Wimal Weerawansa accused Ravi Karunaratne’s house as the place of signing a secret pact with TNA & foreign elements.

    groundviews,
    A. Do you think a media outlet should be sued for covering a press conference?
    B. Why are you silent on this matter so far?

    I thought your passion for the freedom of media would have evoked an instant response/article condemning this action. Or are you only passionate when “certain” journalists/media are taken to court? Would like a response if you don’t mind. Thank you.

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      A. Do you think a media outlet should be sued for covering a press conference?
      Emphatically not. However, based on Ada Derana’s own report and video on this, Ravi Karunaratne is not suing them for “covering a press conference”, but on what he claims is fabricated content broadcast on Derana TV. This is called defamation.

      B. Why are you silent on this matter so far?
      Because we knew you would bring it up.

  • Observer

    A. Do you think a media outlet should be sued for covering a press conference?
    Emphatically not. However, based on Ada Derana’s own report and video on this, Ravi Karunaratne is not suing them for “covering a press conference”, but on what he claims is fabricated content broadcast on Derana TV. This is called defamation.

    What?? I know defamation. It’s defamation if Derana made the claims which it did not! Wimal Weerawansa did! Plus it has not yet been proved the said incident is false. Journalists are allowed to question things aren’t they? That matter aside, they just gave press coverage, one of among many other media. So how are they at fault? Derana is being targeted here. I’m no lawyer but I can see Ravi has no case here, unless I’m missing something. It’s the inconvenience of having to jump legal hoops and expenses. Which is unfair. Isn’t this dangerous/inconvenient for journalists at large and have implications? According to your logic it’s ok for journalists to get charged for defamation just by giving press coverage at media events! I guess some matters you just let it pass like breaking wind.

    B. Why are you silent on this matter so far?
    Because we knew you would bring it up.

    Thank god I did then!

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Heshan,

    Please criticize TrueLankan’s arguments, not his/her English skills, for I can find enough examples of your own butchery of the language given half a minute. His/her English skills will surely develop with greater opportunity for use, such as on this forum, given the right encouragement.

    As for TrueLankan’s arguments, I am mostly in disagreement, but s/he does highlight the fact that the gutter journalism practiced by the average media house in Sri Lanka has sickened some enough to wonder what all the fuss about “freedom of speech” is about, if that sacred right is being continuously abused for contemptible ends.

    And that is also part of the issue, for, while freedom of speech can and must never be curtailed, one must also question why the very idea is losing its sanctity. What can be done about that?

  • Heshan

    Somewhat Disgusted:

    I am quite competent with the English language, as that is the language I have studied in my entire life. Since of making vague accusations, why don’t you provide specific examples? Are you trying to hide the fact that GOSL has created entire generations of semi-literate racists whose English facility borders on the pathetic? I am aware that you have a habit of defending GOSL, usually through thinly disguised semantic vagaries, but that won’t work here.

  • Heshan

    *Instead of making

  • In Your Face

    Heshan,

    I suppose reviling TrueLankan’s English writing skills serves as your cover for coming up with a valid counter argument. Lazy, lazy!

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    I am very happy that Tissa was allowed on Bail. The point is though the law very explicitly doesnt allow it. Here are the relevant sections:

    The Prevention of Terrorism Act Section 19 (a) says: every person convicted by any court of any offence under this Act shall, notwithstanding that he has lodged a petition of appeal against his conviction or the sentence imposed on him, be kept on remand until the determination of the appeal

    Bail Act No . 30 of 1997 Section 3 (1) says “Nothing in this Act shall apply to any person accused or inspected of having commuted, or convicted of, an offence under, the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. No 48 of 1979, Regulations made under the Public Security Ordinance or any other written law which makes express provision in respect of the release on bail of persons accused or suspected of having committed, or convicted of, offences under such other written law”

  • http://www.cpalanka.org Asanga Welikala

    Thank you for pointing this out, Aacharya.

    However, by virtue of the amendment brought to Section 15 of the original PTA by Section 2 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) (Amendment) Act No. 22 of 1988, read together with Sections 451 and 404 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Court of Appeal is empowered to grant bail notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the PTA.

    This is the basis on which the Court of Appeal has granted Tissa’s bail application on health grounds.

  • wijayapala

    I am very happy that Tissa was allowed on Bail.

    Why? Did you miss his journalism?

  • Bardo

    He deserves to be in jail.

    Picture this. What if this man is a Sinhalese. Assume he took money from a banned Sinhala terrorist group. Let’s say his magazine was called Southwestern Monthly. What if he glorified these terrorists in his writings, and justified Sinhala terrorist attacks on Tamil civilians because “it is an effective strategy”. What he even encouraged vigilante attacks on Tamils. He gets thrown in jail by Ranil Wickremesinghe.

    What is your reaction?

  • Heshan

    Hi Bardo:

    Let’s apply your logic to Mahinda Rajapakse. He [allegedly gave] a 500K election bribe to the LTTE. Do you think he should be sitting in jail?

  • Heshan

    Dear Groundviews:

    I understand your reasoning for changing my wording to “alleged.” However, for the sake of clarity, I would like to point out that when one weighs the evidence, everything points to “guilty”:

    - MR’s Cabinet Memo

    - TID questioning Sonali Samarasinghe (the one who broke the story) for 5 hours

    - The sudden arrest and release of Tiran Alles

    - Mysterious death of Sripathi S.

    Just because there was no investigation does not mean our friend is innocent. There was no investigation into “Helping Hambantota”, the airforce MIG deal, the murder of Lasantha (certainly no proper investigation), or the Channel 4 videotape. Except for the Channel 4 incident, it is rather difficult to establish the innocence of those in the “Royal Family.”

    Here is the link to the original article by Sonali S:

    http://lankawhistleblower.blogspot.com/2007/07/how-mahinda-rajapaksa-channeled-money.html

    As always, her analysis is thorough and gets the job done.

  • Observer

    Not even an infinity of allegations amount to a single irrefutable piece of evidence! That is where justice lives…

  • Observer

    Heshan, at this juncture of history we have to believe there was no such bribe. Purely due to lack of evidence. But hypothetically if he did that, came to power and wiped them out. It makes him even a greater genius. Got rid of scourge when no one else could. He promised, he delivered!

    Just think, if he was cunning enough to deceive & bribe the LTTE, don’t you think TNA would be in his pocket now at this election? I think you over estimate MR sometimes.

  • Heshan

    Observer:

    It is an indisputable fact that billions of rupees were paid to the LTTE.

    Emil Kanthan is real.

    The Cabinet Memo is real.

    The bogus housing projects are real.

    This is from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense website:

    ——-

    CID probing massive transfer of funds, vehicles to LTTE

    Chairman of the CBE Tiran Alles was arrested by the CID to question him on the transfer of a vast amount of funds to the LTTE through the TNJ Company registered under the name of leading LTTE activist Emil Kanthan for the past several years, Information and Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told Parliament yesterday(06).

    According to information received Alles had set up the TNJ Company in Kanthan’s name utilising his own funds and 33 Volvo and Benz vehicles and various other equipment had been transferred through it to the LTTE ostensibly for building houses.

    Emil Kanthan who had escaped from Police custody in 1999 had been taken into custody by the Colombo Special Crime Bureau on several occasions on terrorism charges.

    Kanthan was also the leader of the gang which assaulted Minister Douglas Devananda at the Kalutara prison in 1998. Thereafter, Kanthan had fled the country. He had established contacts with Alles six years ago.

    With the use of mobile phones in the North and East, Alles’s Company had obtained the Agency to market Dialog mobile connections in the North and East. The commission agreed was 50 per cent of the monthly bill paid to Dialog from each connection.

    Accordingly, billions of rupees had been paid to Alles’s CBE Company in respect of mobile phone connections given to the North and East and this money had been procured for LTTE needs locally and internationally.

    According to statements made and information received by the CID, the TNJ Company had obtained leasing facilities from the Hatton National Bank to provide the Volvos and Benzes to the LTTE. ——-

    http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20070607_01

  • Heshan

    Tiran Alles, Mangala, MR & LTTE – 06-12-2007, 05:47 PM
    Kanthan connection: Deeper than cell phone links

    The name Kuthupdeen- does it ring a bell? Of course it should, perhaps, alarm bells. He was the person implicated in the famous VAT scam amounting to a loss of billions of rupees to the country. However, not much progress has been made in the case after Kuthupdeen fled the country and is believed to be residing in Dubhai.
    Another person to flee to Dubhai is Emil Kanthan, against whom there is an indictment on charges of attempted murder, pending in the Kalutara High Court. An open warrant is to be issued for his arrest and Interpol is being informed.
    However, in the case of Kuthupdeen, no open warrant has been issued for his arrest. Kuthupdeen is learnt to have sold a vehicle to businessman Tiran Alles for Rs 52 million, and has reportedly given Rs. 100 million to purchase a property at Rosmead Place, for a group of companies, of which Alles was the Chairman. A person by the name of Muslin was the go-between in a deal where one of the companies- Communication and Business Equipment (Private) Limited- was to be a sub dealer for Dialog mobile phones in the North and East.
    During the time Mangala Samaraweera held the Ports and Aviation portfolio, Alles was made the Chairman of Airport Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited (AASL) while Kuthupdeen was pursuing the possibility of starting a dry port.
    A consignment of LTTE propaganda material is still lying in the port uncleared despite a business partner of Alles, Dushantha Basnayake standing surety for the consignment.
    Sleuths from the Terrorist Investigations Division (TID) stumbled upon a major fraud involving the transfer of monies out of the country from the airport when Alles was the Chairman AASL.
    The modus operandi was that certain passengers in the transit lounge were allegedly given large sums of foreign currency in brief cases, to be taken abroad.
    The authorities maintain that when this racket was brought to the notice of Alles, he had not done anything about it.
    In one case involving an Indian Muslim by the name of Mohamed Ali and Sri Lankan Muslims including Mugi, Naina Mohamed and Zainulabdeen, a sum of Rs. 80 million in foreign currency was about to be slipped out of the country, when the detection was made at the transit lounge. The flight was Chennai-Colombo-Singapore, with transit at Katunayake.
    Alles was asked to resign his position in February this year and accordingly vacated it on February 12, three days after Aviation Minister Mangala Samaraweera was removed from the Cabinet. Chandima Rasaputra succeeded Alles as Chairman and the Sri Lanka Air Force was put in charge of overall security of the airport.
    Judging by the sequence of events played out in public, it suggests that Alles was targeted after Samaraweera was removed. However, the reality is otherwise, where even Basnayake had indirectly admitted so in an affidavit last year, stating their accounts were frozen last year.
    On March 14, 2007, a month after Samaraweera was removed from the Cabinet, four companies- Standard Newspapers (Private) Ltd, Standard Printers (Private) Ltd, Communication and Business Equipment (Private) Ltd and CBE Security (Private) Ltd- as separate petitioners, filed Fundamental Rights Applications S.C. F/R No. 89/2007, 90/2007, 91/ 2007 and 92/2007 in the Supreme Court. The four respondents in all these four cases were The Monetary Board of the Central Bank, Governor of the Central Bank, Ajith Nivard Cabral, Chief Executive Officer, Finance Intelligence Unit (FIU), George N. Fernando and the Attorney General. The first two petitioners withdrew their FR cases, as the freeze orders on their accounts were allowed to lapse.
    The investigation into terrorist financing began way back in mid 2006, after the FIU was set up on June 2, 2006. Officers of the TID had gone to a particular bank to obtain certain information of suspicious transactions of companies. They had the wrong account numbers and as a result the banks refused to divulge details. However, that very day the CBE had been tipped off and tried to withdraw nearly Rs. 60 million, raising the suspicions of the bank. In terms of the new laws, banks are expected to report to the FIU any suspicious transactions or, any transaction over Rs 500,000 threshold. (The Money Laundering Act was passed in Parliament in 2006). The police moved the High Court to freeze more than 30 accounts of these four companies. A further extension of the freeze order for eight more weeks in respect of 12 of the 30 accounts was sought. The rest was allowed to lapse. Now another extension of the freeze order, in respect of only two more accounts, has been obtained, while the rest of the accounts could be operated and in fact, have been operated.
    The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation accounts were also frozen last year, in keeping with the new laws.
    Meanwhile, CBE came under a cloud last year when arrested Tiger cadres had admitted that they were given mobile phones by the Tiger leaders. These mobile connections were granted by the sub contractor CBE operating in the North and East. The sub contractor was learnt to have been paid a substantial percentage of each bill by the parent company, in terms of the legal agreement.
    It is also learnt that Emil Kanthan had run up bills of four mobile phones up to Rs. 3 million and CBE had requested the parent mobile company to increase the credit limit, undertaking responsibility.
    Kanthan’s list of telephone calls are being probed by sleuths who have come up with valuable information.
    The CBE has also paid up to nearly Rs. 20 million for both the purchase of land in Pita Kotte and later building upon it for Emil Kanthan’s mother. The transaction was done by the company’s Finance Director Dushantha Basnayake who was also arrested. Some 30 vehicles, including many luxury types, such as Benz and Volvo, were also bought on lease agreements by the TNJ Company, allegedly set up by Alles in Kanthan’s name. UNP MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena stood surety for these agreements. However, the bank was compelled to write off these as bad debts, after reports that most of these vehicles had found their way to the uncleared areas. (Kanthan’s driver was supposed to have owned or used one of these luxury vehicles).
    Emil Kanthan, who was placed in the Kalutara prison, on suspected terrorism charges, had assaulted Douglas Devananda in 2001, when the latter visited the prison, and an indictment in the Kalutara High Court, for attempted murder, is pending. A previous indictment in the High Court of Vavuniya, for terrorist activities, was dismissed, as the confession did not hold. The confessions had to be made to an ASP or a police officer above that rank.
    The authorities claim they have the option of charging suspects under the Terrorist Financing Laws for actions in the past year or, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act or, the normal criminal law.
    In a separate case S.C. F/R application No. 93/2007, CBE as a petitioner cited the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka, its director general Kanchana Ratwatte, Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Dialog Telecom Limited and the AG as respondents.
    Leave to proceed in this and the cases not withdrawn was granted by the Supreme Court, which however failed to grant interim relief and allowed the Attorney General to file objections before July 13.
    Romesh De Silva P.C. along with Sugath Caldera and Eraj de Silva appeared for the petitioner while Additional Solicitor General Satya Hettige, P.C., appeared for the Attorney General along with Deputy Solicitor General Dias Wickremesinghe and State Counsel Shaheed Barrie. In the other two cases Deputy Solicitors General Buweneka Aluwihare and D.P.J. Aluwihare appeared for the AG and other respondents.
    In the case 93/2007, the bench queried as to how the Defence Secretary could issue orders to stop call off the service. The relevant Emergency provisions were also looked into but the court was not satisfied but allowed the AG to file objections on Wednesday.
    The petitioner Alles, who has been arrested, has given an affidavit that is in safe keeping, to the effect that several key government personalities had dealings with Emil Kanthan and it would be interesting to see how these developments have an effect on the larger probe that began with the setting up of the FIU long before the former Minister Mangala Samaraweera and his confidants fell out with the government.

    Nation (10-06-2007)

  • http://www.youtube.com/NoEalamInSL NoEalamInSL

    GV, Nice to see a positive remark on media freedom, compliment to MR govt. ..

    To whom are you voting in this presi-election 2010, SF/MR? For what reason?

    Regarding release of Daya Master… I think no criminal/terrorist should be released without bringing them to justice. Those who massacred civilians should be punished. SF said 10,000 LTTE suspects will be released as soon as he becomes the president. I think Sri Lanka cant let be a killing field for serial killers. Bring justice to 100,000 victims of Elam Wars and LTTE attrocities.

    Regarding freedom of expression… no journalist should be jailed, neither should journalists/persons abuse the freedom of expression…. write with responsibility!

    Tissainayagam… Use your pen for betterness of all, especially for ethnic harmony in the country. Good Journalists think not for themselves or for a particular race, but for all. A pen can be disastrous than a multi-barrel rocket launcher… so do not use your journalism to fuel communal violence, instead use it as a extinguisher…. and make use of your freedom for betterness of all…You may have born to a Tamil father, but all of us are Sri Lankans..

    NoEalamInSL

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear NoEalamInSL,

    This is the first time I noticed you on GV though you are registered on GV.

    You run a GREAT site using U tube

    A wealth of information is available there to counter LTTE propaganda

    Hope to see you more often on GV

    Thank you

  • http://www.youtube.com/NoEalamInSL NoEalamInSL

    Dear Off the Cuff,

    Thank you for your compliment.

    Yes, I am a fan of GV. A great platform. Unfortunately (sometimes) my comments subject to GV censorship since they were not complying with GV rules.. :(

    Hope to see you too on GV or on any of my channels on You Tube, FB, Blogspot… NoEalamInSL… For Peace, Democracy Sovereignty of Sri Lanka!
    Yes. For all Sri Lankans!

    Thank You

    NoEalamInSL