Groundviews first highlighted the case of J.S. Tissainayagam last year, noting that,
Salient points of Tissa’s case point to a larger and more chilling deterioration of media freedom in Sri Lanka under the Rajapakse administration. Tissa’s case in particular reveals a particularly twisted logic, and through it, confirms fears that the regime in the South now completely mirrors the intolerance of media freedom and free expression the LTTE is known and reviled for.
In May 2009, President Barack Obama referred to Tissa as an emblematic example of the distressing reality of journalist’s jailed for their writing.Â On 31st August 2009, Tissa was sentenced by the High Court in Colombo to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). As the Times flags,
The Sri Lankan Government accused Mr. Tissainayagam of taking money to spread Tiger propaganda in a case that the US Department of State said last year â€œappeared to be politically motivated”.
The Sri Lankan Government accused Mr. Tissainayagam of taking money to spread Tiger propaganda in a case that the US Department of State said last year â€œappeared to be politically motivated”.Â Mr. Tissainayagam had accused the army of withholding food and other supplies from areas populated by Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil population as a tool of war. The Government said that the allegations were false and aimed at sparking communal unrest.
Nimalka Fernando, a leading human rights activist, calls this judgement a travesty of justice in a video interview conducted shortly after the sentencing, available below. It is a position Groundviews unequivocally endorses and associates itself with. As noted last year by this site,
Tissa’s case is more than a set of ludicrous charges against an individual. The charges, the length of time he was held without any charge and the manner in which he was treated while imprisoned are all carefully engineered to generate fear and anxiety amongst independent journalists and media. In this, the Rajapakse regime has been tremendously successful. Most journalists today are fearful of even writing about Tissa’s case, much less writing publicly against his unjust predicament or agitating for his quick release.
Yet the incredible charges against Tissa call for defiance and outrage. Every blogger, every journalist, virtually everyone who has articulated an opinion in public through any media should take very careful note of the charges against Tissa. Their nature place us all at risk of arbitrary detention and criminal charges.