A Tamil journalist who was arrested last year for abetting terrorism was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment by a Colombo court on Monday.
The Colombo High Court convicted JS Tissainayagam under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He was found guilty of causing communal disharmony and receiving funds from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to run a website. It is the first time that PTA – which human rights activists here say is draconian in nature – that a journalist has been convicted under it.
Tissainayagam, an MA in International Relations from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, edited the monthly journal the North-Eastern Monthly, and was employed by Sri Lanka One-Text Initiative, an organisation involved in the Sri Lankan peace process.
HE was arrested on March 7, 2008 by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lanka police. He has since been charged with attempting to cause the commission of acts of violence or racial or communal disharmony relating to articles he published in his magazine ‘North Eastern Monthly’ in 2006 and 2007.
He was also charged with collecting and obtaining information for the purpose of terrorism and for donating funds for the purpose of terrorism through the collection of funds for the magazine.
During the trial, which was closely followed by rights activists, Tissainayagam claimed that he was harassed and threatened by the TID while under detention. He has also filed a Fundamental Rights petition with the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. The TID have produced a confession allegedly signed by Tissainayagam, although he claimed it was dictated to him, and he was pressured to write it in his own handwriting.
Tissainayagam’s lawyer says he will appeal against the Colombo High Court decision.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanksa and Mexico are among the worst hit countries in the world in terms of disappearances of journalists, a press freedom watchdog said.
In a statement issued to mark International Day of the Disappeared, Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that at least two journalists have disappeared in Sri Lanka since 2000.
The number is slightly less than that of in Mexico, where eight journalists have disappeared for nearly a decade.