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STOP THE WAR ON SRI LANKAN JOURNALISTS: RELEASE TISSA NOW

Popular Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam ("Tissa") is the first Sri Lankan journalist to be charged as a terrorist for doing his job. After being held five months without explanation, he was suddenly charged last month with promoting terrorism through a magazine he published for a brief period two years ago.

Six months into his detention, join the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and press groups in Sri Lanka in demanding his release. Watch the video on Tissa's plight and spread the word: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/free-tissainayagam

Tissa, a senior Tamil journalist and columnist for the respected newspaper "The Sunday Times", was arrested on 7 March by the country's Terrorist Investigation Department. After five months without charge, he became the first journalist to be indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in the act's near 30-year history.

Originally, his arrest seemed related to a Tamil news site he edits. But local journalists told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that the site was harmless, and as the months passed, no charges were forthcoming. Until this August, when he was suddenly charged with promoting terrorism through the magazine "Northeastern Monthly", which he briefly published in 2006. The magazine criticised the government's role in Sri Lanka's civil war.

There was no explanation for why it took two years to charge him, but IFJ and many of his supporters believe the government resorted to the draconian anti-terrorist law - an act that allows detentions without charge - to shut him up.

If Tissa is convicted, it will "really affect people's right to freedom of information" and set a dangerous precedent for other reporters who dare to speak out, says the Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka.

The Free Tissa video is part of IFJ's campaign to "Stop the War on Journalists in Sri Lanka". Sadly, more than a dozen journalists and media workers have been murdered in the country since 2006, and in not one case has a perpetrator been brought to justice. Just this week, journalist Radhika Devakumar was shot three times in her home in Batticaloa, eastern Sri Lanka, by unidentified gunmen. Devakumar, now working as a media secretary for a provincial ministry, used to run her own media development organisation, and had previously worked for a Tamil daily for eight years.

So far, IFEX members CPJ and the International Press Institute, among others, have joined the fight to free Tissa. Help the campaign go viral - the goal is 100,000 hits on YouTube. Watch the video here: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/free-tissainayagam

Also, join the Release Tissa Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=23763104109

And read an issue of Tissa's column in "The Sunday Times" written just before his arrest: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/080224/Columns/telescope.html

(10 September 2008)

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