Colombo, Media and Communications

Has journalist J.S. Tissanaiyagam really received a Presidential pardon?

The External Affairs Minister, Prof. G.L. Peiris, who has absolutely nothing to do with the judiciary, claimed at his first press briefing yesterday – 3 May – that President has DECIDED to pardon journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who was ruled guilty by the HC of Colombo and sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment.

The Minister for External Affairs, who was a Professor of Law, said the President has powers to do so and that it comes on a very important day for the media, the Press Freedom Day.

The Sri Lankan mainstream media, that plays into politicians without much ado, carried this news as if Tissainayagam was “set free”. Most reports sort of gave more weight to this statement than even an actual “pardon”. The electronic media was all out with this news from last afternoon. Wow! Tissainayagam pardoned! they sounded.

This morning, Dinamina, Divayina and Lakbima Sinhala dailies and Daily Mirror, The Island English dailies, (wouldn’t know of Tamil news papers) made major news stories, some making headline news, out of this very ambiguous statement, without any inquiries made from either Tissainayagam or his lawyers.

Has Tissainayagam been actually given a pardon? If so, why is the Presidential Secretariat not making any reference to it ? Why is Tissanayagam or his lawyers not commenting on it ? Till now (3pm on 4 May) there is no semblance of proof that Tissainayagam has been pardoned by the President.

It’s only a Professor who has no ministerial responsibility to announce such a pardon and the media that has NO responsibility on what it publishes that has pardoned Tissanayagam.

A witty news bug thus said, “Prof GL beat Dr. Mervyn to it” on Press Freedom Day.

That’s Sri Lanka, any way.