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CPJ to honour Tamil journalist Tissainayagam

[TamilNet, Friday, 25 September 2009 08:18 No Comment]

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) will honour J.S. Tissainayagam as well as courageous journalists from Somalia, Tunisia and Azerbaijan with its 2009 International Press Freedom Awards at a ceremony in November. J.S. Tissainayagam was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison. "These are reporters who risk their personal freedom and often their lives to ensure that independent voices resonate within their nations and across the globe," CPJ Board Chairman Paul Steiger said.

"Their fearlessness to report the news in the face of great obstacles is an inspiration to us all" he added.

"These journalists are being honoured not only because they embody what CPJ stands for, but because they have fought against injustice to uphold the values of press freedom," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

"Imprisonment, harassment, and threat of death cannot deter these extraordinary journalists from continuing their work," he further said.

CPJ’s report – ‘J.S. Tissainayagam, Sri Lanka’:

On March 7, 2008, Tissainayagam, editor of news web site OutreachSL and a columnist for the English-language Sri Lankan Sunday Times, went to the offices of the Terrorism Investigation Division to ask about a colleague who had been arrested the day before. He never made it back home.

Tissainayagam, also known as Tissa, was one of the dozens of ethnic Tamil journalists who were swept up during the 26-year-long conflict between the Sinhalese-dominated government and Tamil separatists, which ended this year.

Terrorism Investigation Division officials arrested Tissainayagam and held him without charge for six months. Then in August 2008, he was charged with inciting "communal disharmony," an offense under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, in two articles written nearly three years earlier in a defunct magazine called North Eastern Monthly.

In September 2009, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Local journalists say Tissainayagam wrote political columns about Tamil issues that were frequently critical of the government but not considered partisan to the separatist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

U.S. President Barack Obama highlighted Tissainayagam’s case during his World Press Freedom Day address in May. (CPJ)

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