Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Honored for their work, threatened at home

CPJ introduces 2009 International Press Freedom Awardees

Washington, November 19, 2009—Naziha Réjiba, editor of the Tunisian online news journal Kalima, said she knows what to expect when she returns home—surveillance, harassment, and threats conducted by one the world’s most repressive governments.

“While I’m speaking, many homes of Tunisian journalists are completely surrounded,” Réjiba, one of four recipients of the 2009 International Press Freedom Awards, told reporters at the National Press Club today, describing state surveillance. The Committee to Protect Journalists gives the awards each year to courageous journalists working in dangerous and repressive circumstances.

At today’s press conference, CPJ also introduced awardee Mustafa Haji Abdinur, an Agence France-Presse correspondent and editor-in-chief of Radio Simba in Somalia. Two other CPJ awardees, J.S. Tissainayagam of Sri Lanka and Eynulla Fatullayev of Azerbaijan, were recognized but not present: They are imprisoned in their home countries in retaliation for their work.
The awards be officially bestowed on Tuesday in New York; the awardees are in Washington to meet with elected officials, diplomats, and news media.

MustafaHaji Abdinur (CPJ/Jeremy Bigwood)
Abdinur noted the dangers facing the press in Somalia, where 18 journalists have died on duty since 2005. “If a journalist is killed, the news is also killed,” he said, noting that foreign journalists are no longer stationed in the country and domestic reporters are being attacked, killed, or forced into exile. Few reporters are left, and the world knows ever less about the grave crisis there.
CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon called for the release of the imprisoned journalists Tissainayagam and Fatullayev. “We will make sure their respective governments are aware of our outrage,” he said.
Fatullayev is an investigative journalist whose colleague, editor Elmar Huseynov, was assassinated in 2005. Fatullayev is serving more than eight years on fabricated charges after his reporting on the unsolved Huseynov slaying raised questions about government obstruction.
“His only crime is his journalism,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “He is being punished for doing a job that the government has not done: investigating the murder of his editor.”
Tissainayagam, or Tissa as he is known in Sri Lanka, is serving 20 years in prison on terrorism charges based on his journalism. Tissainayagam had written columns documenting human rights and other abuses by Sri Lankan military authorities. The government called it inciting “communal disharmony.
Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, called on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to intervene in the case, rectify a miscarriage of justice, and set Tissainayagam free.
For more information about the awardees and the awards ceremony, which will be held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York on Tuesday, November 24, please visit CPJ’s Web site. At the ceremony, CPJ will also honor the author and former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis. Lewis, a founding board member of CPJ, will be presented the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for lifetime achievement.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ICJ Condemns Misuse of Anti-Terrorism Laws
to Prosecute Sri Lankan Journalist, J. S. Tissainayagam

11 September 2009

Today the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) released its Trial Observation Report (http://www.icj.org/IMG/ICJ_Tissa_Trial_Observation_Report_11_Sept_09.pdf) regarding proceedings before the Colombo High Court in the prosecution of J.S. Tissainayagam, a Tamil journalist. On 31 August 2009, Mr Tissainayagam was convicted under anti-terrorism laws and sentenced by Judge Deepali Wijesundara to 20 years “rigorous imprisonment.”

This is the first time that anti-terrorism laws have been used in Sri Lanka to prosecute and convict a journalist for exercising freedom of expression, despite these laws being on the books for decades. The ICJ appreciates the cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka and the presiding judicial officer in enabling the Observers to attend the trial, meet with the Attorney General and with Mr Tissainayagam and his counsel, and generally conduct their work without interference.

The Trial Observation Report focuses on describing the procedural aspects of the case and does not include a substantive assessment of the anti-terrorism laws. It raises a number of concerns regarding fair trial standards, including the judge’s interlocutory decision to allow into evidence what counsel for Mr Tissainayagam described as a forced confession, and subsequent denial of the accused’s right to appeal this decision. The Observers also expressed concern that Judge Wijesundara is the sister of the officer who signed the Indictment against Mr. Tissainayagam. While outside the general scope of this report, the Observers raised broader concerns about the Government’s unprecedented decision to prosecute Mr Tissainayagam on terrorism charges, especially in the context of attacks and threats of attacks against journalists and critics of
Government policy, including public accusations by persons associated with the Government that equate such critics, and the lawyers representing them, as terrorists and traitors, for example, in commentaries posted on an official website of the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order.

The ICJ has previously highlighted the dangers to rule of law posed by Sri Lanka’s broad array of draconian emergency laws (see Briefing Paper: Sri Lanka’s Emergency Laws (March 2009), http://www.icj.org/news.php3?id_article=4475&lang=en). These laws give sweeping powers to the Government to criminalize dissent and paint otherwise lawful speech as terrorism, potentially undermining the foundations of rule of law and democratic governance in the nation. The case of Mr Tissainayagam illustrates this danger.

“The real damage of the Tissainayagam case does not lie only in one judge’s interpretation of the law, but in the fact that the legal system is now seen as carrying out a political agenda of criminalizing anti-Government speech,” stated Roger Normand, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director. “That the Government has chosen to aggressively pursue this case against a prominent Tamil journalist even after the conclusion of the military conflict sends a chilling message of political intolerance and casts doubt on its commitment to justice and national reconciliation.”

Mr. Tissainayagam was arrested by police from the Terrorism Investigation Division on 7 March 2008. Three months later, on 25 August, he was charged with three counts under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979 (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations 2006 (ER 2006), in relation to his criticism of the Sri Lankan Army’s treatment of civilians in two articles published in North Eastern Monthly magazine in June 2006. Following
High Court proceedings observed by the ICJ in 2008 and 2009, Mr. Tissainayagam was found guilty on 31 August 2009 of two counts of intending to “cause communal disharmony” (PTA, s.2), with mandatory minimum sentence of five years each, and one count of receipt of monies “in the furtherance of any act of terrorism” (ER 2006, reg.6), with mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. In total he was sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment.

“The protection of national security and public order is a legitimate aim, but the Government in this case relies on emergency and anti-terrorism laws that are vague and over-reaching, when international law requires that they be precise and strictly necessary,” emphasized Wilder Tayler, Acting Secretary-General of the ICJ. “Where the Government’s intent is to punish expression, as in the case of Mr. Tissainayagam, there
must be a direct and immediate connection between the expression and likely violence and the intent to cause such violence.”

Sri Lanka is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Restrictions on the right to freedom of expression on the ground of national security, as contained in Article 19 (3) ICCPR, must be:
provided by law, with sufficient precision to enable citizens to comply with the law; necessary to protect a legitimate national security interest;
the least restrictive means possible to protect that interest; and,
compatible with democratic principles.

The ICJ is deeply concerned that the case of Mr. Tissainayagam indicates that the integrity of Sri Lanka’s legal system is at risk of being undermined through an unwarranted reliance on emergency laws. Criminalizing written expression without evidence of resulting violence, equating terrorism with an intention to cause feelings of ill will, stripping accused persons of basic rights, admitting into evidence confessions while in police custody and shifting the burden to the accused to prove coercion, mandating harsh minimum sentences – all of these factors pose a threat to the rights of citizens to express controversial views, a pillar of a law-based democratic society.

“The independence and professionalism that has characterized the Sri Lankan judiciary for decades is being undermined by reliance on overbroad security laws that threaten fundamental rights,” stated Roger Normand, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director. “At the heart of this case is whether the Government of Sri Lanka will abide by the rule ‘of’ law or choose to rule ‘by’ law through unjust measures exemplified in the PTA and Emergency Regulations 2006.”

During the brutal decades-long war, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam practiced violent suppression of dissent. To effect genuine national reconciliation, the ICJ calls on the Government to reverse the attitudes of distrust between communities by relying on rule of law to uphold basic freedoms on an equal basis for all citizens, rather than using emergency laws to cast a wider anti-terrorism net.

For further information please contact:
Legal background:

The ICJ is concerned that Sri Lanka’s emergency laws are so broad and vague as to leave people uncertain whether their acts might be considered criminal. This creates a climate of fear and uncertainly for citizens in their relations with each other and the Government, and violates the fundamental principle of legality.

For example, the PTA criminalizes as a terrorist activity any speech that can be construed as intending to “cause communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility” (PTA, s.2(1)(h)) without requiring that the speech be reasonably expected to incite or result in violence or acts of terrorism. Mandatory minimum sentences of five years are imposed for each separate instance of speech leading to conviction on these grounds (PTA, s. 2(2)(ii)). It is evident that in a bitter civil conflict as has occurred in Sri Lanka, many forms of speech can result in feelings of ill will.

Contrary to Sri Lankan law of evidence, the PTA also allows confessions given under police custody to be admitted into evidence, and shifts the burden to the accused to prove that the confession was given involuntarily – an extremely difficult burden to meet without corroborating evidence (PTA, s. 16).
Vague and sweeping powers, such as those contained in the PTA and the Emergency Regulations 2006, undermine legitimate political dissent and media discussion. The media and individual expression should not be suppressed because of perceived dangers that are abstract, remote or hypothetical. Even in times of crisis, freedom of expression, and of the media, are vital to allow open, informed and critical reflection in a democratic society.

According to the Johannesburg Principles, an authoritative interpretation of international law on free speech, where laws purport to punish expression as a threat to national security, the Government must show a “direct and immediate connection” between an expression that is “intended to incite imminent violence” and the “likelihood or occurrence of such violence” (Principle 6).

Even in a lawfully proclaimed state of emergency that threatens the life of the nation, a state may impose restrictions on freedom of expression only to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, and only so long as they are not inconsistent with other obligations under international law.

One danger of relying on emergency laws is the pernicious effect of these laws coming to influence the regular criminal justice system. This was highlighted in a survey of global responses to terrorism by panel of eminent jurists convened by the ICJ. The report, Assessing Damage, Urging Action (16 February 2009) (http://www.icj.org/news.php3?id_article=4536&lang=en), noted the “risk of seepage of special laws into normal procedures and practices” and warned that “special counter-terrorist legislation, introduced for a short term emergency, all too easily becomes entrenched and has an insidious impact on the rule of law more
generally” (p 7).
4th September 2009

Press Release

SLPI urges that Tissainayagam’s case be reviewed in current context

The J.S. Tissainayagam case which attracted media attention both within and outside Sri Lanka for the past several months during the journalist’s detention and trial returned to the forefront with Monday’s determination by the High Court of Colombo that he was guilty of writing and publishing articles causing racial hatred and promoting terrorism and sentenced to 20-years rigorous imprisonment.

The Sri Lanka Press Institute, noting that this is the first instance that a journalists had been charged and convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979 subsequently amended in 1982 and 1988 read together with the relevant provisions of the Penal Code, expresses distress and disappointment at the severity of the sentence imposed and looks forward to the speedy conclusion of the appeal process. Tissainayagam’s lawyers have already announced that they will be appealing the judgment. The matter will be initially canvassed before the Court of Appeal and could go up to the Supreme Court for a final determination.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act was an extraordinary law enacted to deal with an extraordinary situation. The fact that it was tightened and given more teeth three and nine years after it was first enacted is an indication of the escalating problem of LTTE terrorism which has now been militarily defeated. In the context of restoration of near normalcy, SLPI urges government to seriously consider the possibility of prosecuting media related cases, if they wish to do so, under the normal law instead of resorting to extraordinary laws such as the PTA which is arguably no longer necessary.

The judgment in this case has not been published as this is being written. It would no doubt be analyzed and debated in the days ahead and a higher court will examine the various arguments. The government, mindful of opinions and comments made by the international community as well as high profile media organizations looking at this matter as an issue of press freedom has stressed that the verdict has been reached after due process of Sri Lanka’s laws and is not a negation of media freedom. However, given the fact that Tissainayagam was prosecuted over what he wrote and published, this matter will continue to be viewed in many quarters at home and abroad as a press freedom issue.

SLPI therefore urges that a liberal approach to the subject at issue will help strengthen the country’s democratic credentials and appeal to the concerned authorities to restrict themselves to the use of the PTA only on issues of grave national security and also look at the Tissainayagam case in context of current conditions rather than those that prevailed at the time of his detention when the war was raging.


Sunday, September 6, 2009


Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena,
September 5th 2009,
Focus on Rights', The Sunday Times

It was a week dominated by the unprecedented sentencing of senior journalist JS Tissainayagam to twenty years hard labour under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) No 48 of 1979 (as amended) and prevalent Emergency Regulations for the writing of two articles in a journal some years back. A third charge related to the obtaining of funds to run that journal, thereby constituting the collection of monies for the furtherance of terrorist acts.
In this manifestly tragic drama, there was still time to marvel at the exact comedy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' claims that President Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot pardon Tissainayagam at this stage until the legal process was exhausted. It was further asserted that the widespread condemnation, both domestic and international, was an attempt at "undermining the independence of the judiciary of Sri Lanka." Clearly the terminology used by the Ministry hinted at the use of contempt of court powers.
The matter of a presidential pardon
In the first instance, those responsible for writing these press releases at the Ministry are well advised to acquaint themselves with the relevant provisions of the Constitution, namely Section 34(1) which grants the President the power to pardon any offender "convicted of any offence in any court within the Republic of Sri Lanka."
Mark in this regard the significance of the term 'any' in this constitutional provision making it clear that the question of presidential pardon does not limit itself to the stage of final appeal. Among other cases in this respect, recently, President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself pardoned CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman in 2008 after Thondaman was found guilty of contempt of court and imposed a suspended sentence by the Nuwara Eliya Magistrate. So, the question then becomes appropriate; is the Ministry then taking upon itself the power to limit the constitutional authority of the President?
This matter of a pardon is, of course, by the way. Tissainayagam has not himself asked for a pardon. The granting and acceptance of a pardon implies that the offender has accepted the fact of his or her guilt and the applicability of such to this case is not all that easy.
Contempt of court
A critique of the decision by the High Court on the basis of which Tissainayagam was sentenced, must await detailed scrutiny of the decision itself. However, the point must be made - and made strongly at that - that such critiques cannot offend the principle of contempt of court if they are based on a valid and reasonable examination of the legal basis on which the judgment had been delivered.
It is precisely for the purpose of meeting such absurd attempts at stifling freedom of expression, where ordinary folk are at sea on the parameters of the law that a draft Contempt of Court Act was approved by the Bar Council of the Bar Association some years back and sent to the government. This specifically stipulated that fair and reasoned criticism of decided judgments (even of the lower courts) do not amount to contempt of court. A similar stand has been taken by others, including the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (in its previous term).
This principle is not, by any means unusual. It is followed as a matter of fact in countries such as India and the United Kingdom. In developed jurisdictions, a claim that fair critique of a judgment of a lower court would amount to contempt would invoke extreme hilarity if not amazement. We, on the other hand, still continue to struggle with this most basic right of free expression and opinion, forcing many analysts to tiptoe around issues that should be discussed forcefully, angrily and honestly
Symbol of subversion of law
But to revert to the central issue of the Tissainayagam case and more particularly the fact that his defence counsel was absolutely right when he warned in court that the fate which had befallen his client was directed at every other critic of this government. In other words, what we have here is a symbolic and highly potent warning, restricting even the remaining and terribly narrow spaces that exist to speak freely and write freely. The wide range of weapons used in this respect includes not only the detaining, killing and jailing of critics but also character assassination of the most foul kind.
The anti-terrorism laws
The entire saga of Tissainayagam's detention, (for some months without being formally charged) occurred in a particular context, the validity of which would no doubt be argued in the higher appellate courts. This deserves detailed scrutiny in a critical analysis of the High Court judgment itself. The question of his alleged confession is yet another facet of this problem. Tissainayagam's purported confession was relied on by prosecutors to allege that he had obtained monies from sources linked to the LTTE. The defence contended that this charge was based on a coerced confession from Tissainayagam which had anyway been tampered with and was inherently contradictory on manifold points.
For years, successive governments have been called upon in vain to ensure that these confessions, in many cases, obtained through physical or mental duress, are not admitted. The safeguard that a court may rule upon their admissibility is obviated by the fact that the burden is on the accused to prove that the confession was made under duress. Bringing about a balance in the law in this respect now seems more far distant than at any other point in the past.
Courage under fire
One picture that I saw of JS Tissainayagam this week showed him managing a smile at the camera. This is the indelible picture of a journalist, ethnic Tamil as he is, being sentenced for expressing his opinions in this paradise isle where (apparently) we have now seen the dawn of a new age with no minorities or majorities.
This is a telling picture indeed for those in the media who strive with all their might and main, most unsuccessfully, I may add, to prevent honest criticism of the most profound injustice. It is to be hoped that in time, they will get their due deserts if their own invective has not already crucified them.
But make no mistake about this, those responsible for what has happened to Tissainayagam today include not only the operators of a deeply subverted system which detained and indicted him under draconian anti terrorism laws. Rather the responsibility must also be borne by those journalistic hacks masquerading as his 'colleagues' and his 'friends' who give covert impetus to the totalitarianism of those in government, weep as they may crocodile tears at what has befallen him.
One major part of this totalitarian drive, (and I use this term quite deliberately), is to subvert and corrupt the law, be it by detaining and indicting journalists under subversive anti terrorism laws in one instance or by papering over patterns of extra judicial executions and enforced disappearances through corrupted Commissions of Inquiry in another instance. Critics who expose these cover-ups are then subjected to scurrilous abuse of the worst kind.
In a very fundamental sense therefore, some within the media community are very much to blame for the terror that now plagues the media to the extent that to practice true journalism today would invite the worst retribution of its kind. Tissainayagam is among many who are paying the price. As to how many more would be added to this list in the future remains to be seen.
/ 31 August 2009
Tissainayagam sentenced to 20 years:
Democracy in chains in Sri Lanka
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka condemns the sentencing of journalist J.S. Tissainayagam to twenty years rigorous imprisonment under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) on August 31, 2009.
Tissainayagam’s sentence is based on a ‘confession’ that he has refuted and two articles written and published by him in 2006. The judgment also states that the two articles written by Tissainayagam that are the subject of this investigation contain material that causes ‘communal disharmony’, and this too is considered a basis for his sentence. Tissainayagam has never engaged in, or promoted, violence of any kind, and we have always known him to be committed to co-existence and inter-ethnic justice.
Since Tissainayagam was first taken into custody in March 2008, we have continuously appealed for his release on the basis that the allegations against him were unfounded. In addition, we protested against his conditions of detention and the failure to comply with minimum humanitarian standards including providing Tissainayagam with the medical treatment that he needs.
As a community of Sri Lankan journalists and media persons in exile, we express our solidarity with our
colleague Tissa on this occasion and commit ourselves to appeal against this sentence and draw the attention of the world to this flagrant violation of the freedom of thought, opinion and expression in Sri Lanka.
In addition, having followed the developments in this case with grave concern, we wish to highlight the following issues with regard to the Prevention of Terrorism Act which defies principles of natural justice and is in violation of established human rights norms.
According to the judgment, writing or publishing any article that can be defined as being against the Prevention of Terrorism Act can merit a sentence of twenty years rigorous imprisonment under the terms of this Act. No journalist in Sri Lanka has ever received this type of sentence, which is a flagrant violation of media freedom. Thus, this judgment once again highlights the need to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act which violates human rights including the rights of the freedom of expression and opinion. Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka consider this judgment to represent a critical turning point in terms of restriction of media freedom through the law in Sri Lanka. We call on all democratic forces in Sri Lanka and outside to take all possible steps to ensure a reversal of this decision.
We feel that initiating a campaign for the repeal of the PTA in Sri Lanka must be a first step in this direction.
We call on all democratic nations that enter into bilateral agreements with the government of Sri Lanka and on all donors to ensure that the repeal of the PTA is placed high on their list of critical concerns in negotiations with the government.
We wish to point out that every political party that has been involved in the creation and perpetuation of the PTA is complicit in the judgment against Tissainayagam. We appeal to all political parties and organizations committed to democratic principles to come forward to build the broadest possible platform to challenge the PTA. The repeal of the PTA is essential if we are to move towards disarmament in Sri Lanka.
We commit ourselves to work for the release of Tissainayagam and his colleagues V.Jesiharan and Valarmathy in the interests of justice and peace in Sri Lanka.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

මාධ්‍ය නිවේදනය
31 අගෝස්තු 2009

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදයට විලංගු ලයි:

තිස්සනායගම්ට විසි වසරක සිර ද~ුවමක්ජනමාධ්‍යවේදී ෙජ්.එස්. තිසෙයිනායගම් ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත යටතේ 2009 අගොස්තු 31 දින විසි වසරකබරපතල වැඩ සහිත සිර දඩුවමකට ලක් කිරීම ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදය සඳහා මාධ්‍යවේදියෝ සංවිධානය හෙළාදකී.තිසෙයිනායගම්ට දෙන ලද ද~ුවම පදනම් වී ඇත්තේ ඔහු විසින් ප්‍රතික්ෂේප කරන ලද zපාපෝච්චාරණයZ සහ 2006 දීඔහු විසින් ලියා පළ කරන ලද ලිපි දෙකක් මත ය. තිසෙයිනායගම් විසින් ලියන ලද මෙම නඩුවට අදාළ ලිපි දෙකමගින් —වාර්ගික නොසන්සුන්තාවයන්˜ ට තුඩුදෙන කරුණූ අඩංගු වන්නේ යැයි නඩු තීන්දුවෙහි දැක්වෙන අතර එමකරුණ ද මෙම ද~ුවමට හේතුවක් වශයෙන් දක්වා තිබේ.තිසෙයිනායගම් කිසිම ආකාරයක ප්‍රචණ්ඩ ක්‍රියාවක් ප්‍රවර්ධනය කර හෝ සම්බන්ධ වී නැත. සහජීවනය සහ අන්තර්වාර්ගික යුක්තිය උදෙසා ඔහුගේ කැපවීම අපි සැම විටම දැක ඇත්තෙමු.2008 මාර්තු මසයේ දී තිසෙය්නායගම් අත් අඩංගුවට ගත් දා සිටම ඔහුට එරෙහිව එල්ල කරන ලද චෝදනා පදනමක්නැතැයි යන මතයේ පිහිටා ඔහු නිදහස් කරන ලෙස අපි දිගින් දිගටම ඉල්ලා සිට ඇත්තෙමු. එපමණක් නොව ඔහුටඅවශ්‍ය වෛද්‍ය පහසුකම් ඇතුළු අවම මානුෂීය ප්‍රමිතීන් නොමැතිව ඔහු රඳවා තබා සිටි තත්ත්වයන්ට ද අපිවිරුද්ධත්වය දැක්වූයෙමු.ශ්‍රී ලංකාවෙන් පිටත සිටින ජනමාධ්‍යවේදීන් සහ මාධ්‍ය වෘත්තිකයින් වන අප මෙම අවස්ථාවේ දී අපේ සගයා වනතිස්ස සමඟ සහයෝගිතාවය ප්‍රකාශ කරන්නේ මෙම තීන්දුවට එරෙහිව අභියාචනා කිරීමට සහ මෙම තීන්දුව මගින්ඇඟවෙන ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ සිතීමේ, අදහස් දැරීමේ, ප්‍රකාශනයේ නිදහස අමුඅමුවේ කෙළෙසීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් ලොAකඅවධානය ඇති කිරීමට ඇති අපේ කැපවීම ප්‍රකාශ කිරීම මගිනි.තවද මෙම නඩු විභාගය කෙරෙහි මහත් සැළකිල්ල යොමු කර සිටි අප ස්වභාවික යුක්ති ධර්මය ප්‍රතික්ෂේපකරන්නාවූත් පිළිගත් මානව හිමිකම් උල්ළංඝනය කරන්නාවූත් ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත අරභයා පහතදැක්වෙන කරුණූ අවධාරණය කිරීමට කැමැත්තෙමු.මෙම තීන්දුවට අනුව ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්විමේ පනතට එරෙහිව යන ඹ්නෑම ලිපියක් ලිවීම හෝ පළ කිරීම පනතේවගන්ති යටතේ විසි අවුරුදු සිර දඩුවමක් දිය හැකි වරදකි.ජනමාධ්‍ය නිදහස ඍජුවම කෙළාසාලන මෙවැනි තීන්දුවකට ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ කිසිදු ජනමාධ්‍යවේදියකු මේතාක් යටත් කරනැත. එනයින් මෙම තීන්දුව මගින් යළි පෙන්නුම් කරන්නේ මානව හිමිකම් සහ ප්‍රකාශනයේ නිදහස උල්ළංඝනයකරන තස්ත්‍රවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත අහෝසි කිරිමේ අවශ්‍යතාවය යි.මෙම නඩු තීන්දුව ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ජනමාධ්‍ය නිදහස නීතිය මගින් මැඩලීමේ තීරණාත්මක සංන්ධිස්ථානයක් ලෙස සළකනශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදය සඳහා ජනමාධ්‍යවේදියෝ සංවිධානය එකී තීන්දුව ආපසු හැරවීම පිණිස ගත හැකි සෑමපියවරක් ම ගන්නා ලෙස ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ සහ ජාත්‍යන්තර සියළු ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදි බලවේගයන්ගෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටී.මේ අරභයා ගත යුතු ප්‍රථම පියවර වන්නේ ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත අහෝසි කිරීමේ ව්‍යාපාරයක්ඇති කිරීම යි. ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ආණ්ඩුව සමඟ ද්වි පාර්ශවිය සබඳතාවයන්ට එළඹෙන සියළු ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදී ජාතීන්ගෙන්සහ ආධාර දෙන සංවිධානයන්ගෙන් අප ඉල්ලා සිටින්නේ ආණ්ඩුව සමඟ පවත්වන එවැනි සාක්ච්ජාවන්හි දීත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත අහෝසි කිරීම ආණ්ඩුවට කැරෙන සිය විවේචනයන් අතර ඉහළින්ම තබන ලෙස ය.ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත ඇති කිරීමටත් එය සදාකාලික කිරීමටත් දායක වු සියළු දේශපාලන පක්ෂතිසෙයිනායගම්ට එරෙහි මෙම තීන්දුවට වගකිව යුතු බව ද අපි පෙන්වා දිය යුතුව තිබේ. ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදී මූලධර්මයන්ටකැපවීමක් ඇති සියළු දේශපාලන පක්ෂ සහ සංවිධානයන්ගෙන් අප ඉල්ලා සිටින්නේ ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනතටඅභියෝග කළ හැකි පුළුල්තම පෙරමුණක් පිහිටුවීම පිණිස පෙරමුණ ගන්නා ලෙස ය.ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ යුක්තියේ සහ සාමයේ නාමයෙන් තිස්සෙයිනායගම් සහ ඔහුගේ සගයින් වන ජසිහරන් සහ වලර්මතීනිදහස් කර ගැනීම පිණිස අපේ කැපවීම අපි යළිත් ප්‍රකාශ කරමු.

විධායක කමිටුව
ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදය සඳහා මාධ්‍යවේදියෝ
National Peace Councilof Sri Lanka
12/14 Purana Vihara Road Colombo 6
Tel: 2818344, 2854127, 2819064
E Mail: npc@sltnet.lk

Media Release

The prison sentence of 20 years with hard labour passed on a senior journalist and editor of the North Eastern Monthly, J S Tissainayagam has come as a great disappointment to all who cherish the freedom of media and the right to free expression of political ideas. This is a case that attracted a great deal of publicity, both nationally and internationally, on account of the issues at stake. The Colombo High Court found Mr Tissainayagam guilty of having violated the Prevention of Terrorism Act by writing articles aimed at creating communal disharmony and for raising money for a publication that violated the law.The National Peace Council believes that at the root of the harsh prison sentence is the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which is a draconian law with a disproportionate impact that is aimed at apprehending terrorists and not journalists who use the pen and not the sword to influence the politics of the society in which they live. Mr Tissainayagam was the first journalist to be formally charged under this law for his writings. A number of eminent witnesses had given evidence at the trial that Mr Tissainayagam was not a person who would incite communal disharmony and had stood for human rights in general, including the rights of Tamil people affected by the war. This was our conviction too.

It is also a matter of concern that sections of the government have attempted to intimidate those who speak out against the judgment claiming that any criticism may result in a finding of contempt of court. This further stifles freedom of expression which has long been established as a fundamental right in Sri Lanka. NPC calls on the government to abolish the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act insofar as they can be used against the media, and to reconsider the use of this law in the aftermath of the war. We also appeal to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to demonstrate statesmanship in a time of ethnic polarization, and to use his prerogative of a presidential pardon to uphold the freedom of media and the right to free expression of ideas.

Governing Council The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reporters Without Borders
17 March 2009
UN Human Rights Council urged to intercede on behalf of two detained journalists

Reporters Without Borders, which has consultative status with the United Nations Human Rights Council, today asked the council to intercede on behalf of two imprisoned Sri Lankan journalists, J.S. Tissainayagam and N. Vithyatharan, and to meet as quickly as possible to discuss the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

The press freedom organisation said Tissainayagam, who worked for the Sunday Times newspaper, has been held under an anti-terrorism law for more than a year just for writing two articles about how civilians have suffered as a result of the fighting between government forces and the rebels of the LTTE.

Vithyatharan, the editor of the Tamil daily Sudar Oli, has been held by the Colombo police since 26 February. The authorities are trying to establish a link between him and the Tamil Tigers by going through hundreds of calls made or received by him or members of his staff.

Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the comments which the president’s brother, defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, made about Vithyatharan in an interview for Amos Roberts, a reporter with Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). “He is involved in the recent air attack and I am telling you if you try to give cover-up for that person you have blood in your hands,” Rajapaksa said. “And if someone says he is arrested because he is in media, that person also has blood on his hands.”
Intervention aux Nations unies en faveur de Tissainayagam et Vithyatharan
Reporters sans frontières, qui dispose du statut consultatif auprès du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies, est intervenue, le 17 mars 2009, en faveur des journalistes sri lankais Tissainayagam et Vithyatharan, tous deux emprisonnés. L'organisation a demandé au Conseil des droits de l'homme de se réunir au plus vite pour discuter de la situation des droits de l'homme au Sri Lanka.
L'organisation a rappelé que Tissainayagam du Sunday Times était détenu depuis plus d'un an en vertu d'une loi antiterroriste, pour avoir simplement publié deux articles sur le sort des civils dans le conflit qui oppose le gouvernement de Colombo aux LTTE.
De son côté, Vithyatharan du journal tamoul Sudar Oli est détenu depuis le 26 février 2009 par la police à Colombo. Les enquêteurs tentent d'établir un lien entre le journaliste et les Tigres tamouls, en vérifiant des centaines d'appels téléphoniques passés ou reçus par Vithyatharan et la rédaction de Sudar Oli.
Reporters sans frontières est choquée par les propos de Gotabaya Rajapaksa, secrétaire à la Défense, qui dans une interview à une chaîne australienne, a déclaré à propos de Vithyatharan qu'il était un "terroriste". "Il a été impliqué dans la récente attaque aérienne. Si vous essayez de couvrir cette personne, vous avez du sans sur les mains. Et si quelqu'un dit qu'il a été arrêté pour ses activités de journaliste, alors il aura également du sang sur les mains", a déclaré le frère du président à Amos Roberts de SBS.
Vincent Brossel
Asia-Pacific Desk
Reporters Without Borders