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Journalist detained for over five months charged with "terrorism"

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls on the Sri Lankan government to release J. S. Tissainayagam, a Tamil journalist who has been held since March 2008. A government minister recently said he is charged with "terrorism" on the basis of articles written in 2006 and his activities as the editor of a website.

"This respected journalist's illegal and unjust detention is being accompanied by grotesque charges that are a serious violation of the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Sri Lankan constitution," Reporters Without Borders said.

"How can the expression of a personal view, which is based on facts known to everyone and which does not call for violence, be an act of terrorism," the press freedom organisation said. "We urge the international community, including the European Union, to press for Tissainayagam's release."

In a 12 August letter to Human Rights Watch, Disaster Management and Human Rights Secretary Rajiva Wijesinha said that, after a long police investigation, Tissainayagam was now facing terrorism charges. But the only evidence he offered was a 2006 article in a magazine edited by Tissainayagam in which he spoke of an army offensive in a Tamil region that was being accompanied by a dramatic humanitarian crisis for the civilian population.

The letter can be read on the Peace in Sri Lanka website ( ).

A contributor to the "Sunday Times" newspaper, Tissainayagam was arrested in Colombo on 7 March, just a few weeks after creating a news website called Outreachlk ( ) with funding from FLICT, an NGO supported by the German development agency GTZ. The authorities extended his detention for another three months on 6 June in order to continue their investigation.

The police have apparently tried to establish that articles he wrote in 2006 supported Tamil Tiger terrorism. His case was referred to the attorney-general's office on 4 July. He is being held by the anti-terrorism police in Colombo, where his lawyer has never been allowed to talk to him in private.

Updates the Tissainayagam case:

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