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Tissa: 100 days in prison

Today, the International Human Rights Day also marks the 100th day in prison for senior journalist Jayaprakash Sittambalam (JS) Tissainayagam.

A Colombo High Court, on 31 August 2009, sentenced Tissainayagam to 20 years of prison with hard labour. Tissa was charged under notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), for publishing articles critical of Sri Lankan government's war in the North and East of the island. Despite the appeals of numerous rights organizations and world leaders, and despite the fact that the Sri Lankan President has the power to release Tissa, he still remains incarcerated. Tissainayagam has been named 'an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience' and adjudged the Winner of Peter Mackler 2009 Award for 'courageous and ethical journalism'. Tissanayagam was the first journalist to become a victim of PTA and the case has become a prime example of the destruction of freedom and democracy in the island.

Under the current regime, Sri Lanka’s crackdown on journalists, has resulted in the death of 16 journalists and media workers’ and in over 50 journalists fleeing the island. As threats to continue journalists are still fleeing the island. This situation has resulted in imposing self-censorship on journalism creating a blow to people’s right to information. Though the Rajapaska government, almost in every case, has ordered 'so called full scale investigations' on killings and attacks on journalists, not a single investigation, so far, has resulted in bringing those responsible to the book.

The Rajapaksa government, even today, does not allow journalists the right to access the North East in general and internally displaced people (IDP) camps in particular. In these camps, it is believed that there over 100,000 war refugees are still being kept. Apart from these known camps ICRC has not been given full access to the undisclosed venues where over 12,000 alleged ex-combatants are held. The real situation regarding these right violations are not reported, as the media is not given free access other than military guided tours.

Journalists of Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) call upon the international rights organizations to exert pressure on the Rajapaksa Administration to

• secure the immediate release of senior journalist Jayaprakash Sittambalam Tissanayagam

• secure the immediate release of all political prisoners

• stop attacks on journalists and media workers

• to allow the media having access to the North East and the IDP camps as the initial step in restoring democracy in Sri Lanka.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

10.12.2009

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Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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