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Three journalists released by Terrorist Information Department; two remain in custody

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a joint press release by FMM and four other Sri Lankan media organisations:

Three journalists released

19th March / Colombo - We, the five media organizations of Sri Lanka, are pleased to report that three journalists who have been in the custody of Terrorist Information Department (TID) were released this afternoon.

Journalist K. Wijesinghe, cameraman Ranga Lasanatha and visual editor Unyanan of were released today. Kumar, a relative of the E-kuality printing press owners, who had come to Colombo from Batticoalo for an interview and who was staying with his uncle Jasiharan, was also released.

Sanath Balasuriya, (President) and Poddala Jayantha, (Secretary) of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association were at the Magistrate courts to receive them; the journalists were officially handed over to them by a Colombo magistrate.

All three journalists were arrested on 7 and 8 of March without any charges, and were kept in TID custody for nearly two weeks before being released as innocent. Our organizations requested the government expedite the investigations as soon as they were arrested. In our opinion, it is a crime to keep innocent persons for weeks in police custody just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the eyes of the police. Now it has been proven that these journalists were arrested on the basis of incorrect information.

Our organizations would like to take this opportunity to express out gratitude to local as well as international press freedom and human rights organizations that joined us in our campaign for the release of these journalists. Without a strong campaign on their behalf, these journalists would have been kept in custody for a longer period.

Today, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka gave leave to proceed with a fundamental rights violation application filed on behalf of freelance journalist and editor of J.S Tissainayagam, in protest of his unlawful arrest and detention by the police. We five media organisations support him in his application.

Tissainayagam has been in TID custody for 14 days now. We request TID expedite the investigations into Tissainyagam and the writer and printing press owner N. Jasiharan.

Our organizations will monitor the situation of journalists still in TID custody and will take appropriate action to defend their human and democratic rights.

Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU)
Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF)
Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Alliance (SLTJA)
Free Media Movement (FMM)

Updates the Wijesinghe (Wijesingha), spelled this way in 2nd par: Lasanatha Unyanan, Kumar (Sivakumar), Jasiharan (Jasikaran) and Tissainayagam (Tissanayagam) cases:

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