Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sri Lankan journalist J.S Tissainayagam rewarded by the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism

Global Media Forum and the US branch of Reporters Without Borders have formally awarded the respected Sri Lankan journalist and editor J. S. Tissainayagam as first winner of the Peter Mackler Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on October 2, 2009. His wife, Ronnate Tissainayagam, was present at the ceremony to receive the Award.
“For the last 20 years my husband has endeavoured to pursue the goals that Mr.Mackler believed in as a journalist. Like Peter, my husband was never too busy to encourage those who wanted to learn to write and has helped many in journalism. Today my husband is continuing to teach me courage and grace in difficult times. For him no matter what the circumstances are; there is no excuse for unkindness. No matter what circumstance fellow human beings must be treated with dignity », said Ronnate Tissainayagam.
J. S Tissainayagam is a respected Tamil journalist and editor who wrote for the North Eastern Monthly Magazine and the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka. And is the founder of the website Outreachsl.com. He was arrested March 7, 2008 by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lanka police and got a 20 year sentence on terrorism charges today on August 31st.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Tissainayagam’s case is the first known instance in the democratic world of a journalist being charged under the provisions of an anti-terror law. The organization said that in the past two years, the deaths of eleven journalists - eight of them were ethnic Tamils - have been unresolved by the Sri Lankan government. At least, eight foreign reporters or contributors to international media have been forced to leave the country because of threats from the authorities or their supporters since 1st January 2009 and 30 Sri Lankan journalists have fled Sri Lanka since the start of 2008.
During the ceremony, the key note speaker Marcus Brauchli, executive editor of The Washington Post held a speech on the challenges of reporting in developping countries and the achievements journalists success in thanks to making the information public.
“Doing such good journalism as the Peter Mackler Award encourages takes courage”, said Brauchli.
The Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism was founded in June, 2008 to honor the memory of Peter Mackler, a Brooklyn-born thirty-five year veteran journalist who championed ethical journalism, freedom of expression, and who helped transform the news agency Agence France Press (AFP) into the international competitor it is today. Mackler also founded Global Media Forum, which has helped train journalists and non-profit organizations to use the media as a tool for social change, and Project Plato, which teaches journalism as a life skill to teenagers. Links http://www.rsf.org/Sri-Lankan-journalist-J-S.html and video link http://pmaward.org/ceremony/

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

THE HINDU - Opinion - Editorials Blow to media freedom
The August 31 verdict of a Colombo High Court sentencing the veteran journalist and columnist J.S. Tissainayagam to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment under the country’s draconian anti-terror law has raised concerns across the world on the state of freedoms in the country. The punishment is extremely disproportionate to the alleged crime of writing articles criticising the military in his North Eastern Monthly magazine. Tissainayagam, an ethnic Tamil who wrote in English and was a regular newspaper columnist, was arrested by an anti-terrorism division of police in March 2008. He was not formally charged or produced in court until August 2008, when he was indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The court made a determination that his column, which was a mere expression of opinion on the government strategy in the war against terror, was intended to cause racial or communal disharmony. His raising money to run his magazine was construed as raising funds for the promotion of terrorism. The shock over the judgment is understandable as it is the first case in which a journalist had been charged and convicted under the PTA of 1979 and has come in the post-Prabakaran Sri Lanka that eagerly awaits reconciliation, after the military defeat of the LTTE in May this year.
Even before the court pronouncement, the case of Tissa made international headlines. On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, United States President Barack Obama referred to the lack of media freedom in many parts and to the case of Tissainayagam along with another as “emblematic examples of this distressing reality.†Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that has consultative status with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), has called on the Council to intercede on behalf of the jailed Sri Lankan journalist. The incarceration and prosecution by the state and the court’s judgment have the effect of intimidating reporters and editors who may want to question the government’s anti-terror campaign and strategy. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has earned all-round praise for his successful military campaign against the LTTE, should heed democratic voices and intervene urgently in the matter to set Tissainayagam free. Even in difficult times, the Sri Lanka Parliament had in 2002, during the tenure of Ranil Wickramasinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunga, repealed law relating to criminal defamation. The core post-war theme espoused by the government is, “let’s forget the past and rebuild the battered nation.†The Tissa episode is an opportunity for the government to move towards reconciliation as well as to ensure that basic freedoms are protected.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

For immediate release – 6 March 2009

Sri Lanka: Free Journalist Detained on Terrorism Charges

365 days after Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam was detained under
Anti-Terrorism legislation, ARTICLE 19 joins many people and organisations
around the world calling for his immediate release.
Tissainayagam, now an Amnesty International
Prisoner of Conscience, was detained without charge
on 7 March 2008. Following international calls for
his release the Sri Lankan authorities finally brought
charges against him under the Prevention of
Terrorism Act on 25 August 2008 for a series of
newspaper articles.
According to journalist and former Convener of the
Sri Lankan Free Media Movement, Uvindu
Kurukulasuriya, “Tissainayagam was considered a
kind of bridge between the north and south, or the
Sinhalese and the Tamils. He has written many
articles concerning the ethnic situation in Sri Lanka.”
Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director ARTICLE 19 adds “over the past 3 years
more than 14 journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka and many have escaped to
India and the West, fearing for their lives. Tissainayagam’s case well demonstrates
the threats that counter terrorism legislation and measures pose to freedom of the
press, as they are so easily abused. His continued imprisonment for the peaceful
expression of his opinion sadly constitutes one of the many violations that are
common place in today’s Sri Lanka, including wide censorship, self-censorship, death
threats, violence and arbitrary arrests.”
Today ARTICLE 19 joins seven media rights organisations in demanding that the Sri
Lankan government urgently review his case. To read the full statement, visit:

To read past ARTICLE 19 statements on Tissainayagam’s case, visit:
• Sri Lanka: Journalist Still in Detention After 250 Days -
• Sri Lanka: Free Speech Indicted - http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/srilanka-