Sunday, September 6, 2009

National Peace Councilof Sri Lanka
12/14 Purana Vihara Road Colombo 6
Tel: 2818344, 2854127, 2819064
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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.

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