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It has been a full year since popular Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, "Tissa", was detained in Sri Lanka. After being held five months without explanation, he was suddenly accused of promoting terrorism and held the unfortunate title of the first Sri Lankan journalist to be charged as a terrorist for doing his job.

Join the International Press Freedom Mission and press groups in Sri Lanka in demanding the unconditional release of Tissa, who they say has been subjected to arbitrary court adjournments and is in ill health.

Tissa, manager of the news website OutreachSL and columnist for the respected newspaper "The Sunday Times", was arrested on 7 March 2008 by the country's Terrorist Investigation Division of the Sri Lankan police. He was detained as he sought to check on two of his colleagues, Vettivel Jasikaran and Vadivel Valamathy, who had been taken into police custody the previous day.

Originally, his arrest seemed related to the Tamil news site he edits. But last August, he was 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. Jasikaran and Valamathy were charged with aiding and abetting Tissainayagam; the "Monthly", which folded in 2007, was published by Jasikaran's printing business. Valamathy's only connection to the case appeared to be her relationship with Jasikaran.

All three face up to 20 years each if convicted on all counts, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"The treatment of Tissainayagam and the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act against him have set an alarming precedent in efforts to silence independent voices and criticism in Sri Lanka, especially in regard to reporting on the conduct of the war in Sri Lanka," the International Mission said.

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, said the Free Media Movement (FMM) in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has long been considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. CPJ counts 10 journalists killed by premeditated murder since 1999, with no prosecutions or convictions.

Since 2006, the International Press Freedom Mission to Sri Lanka has conducted three missions to Sri Lanka. The mission includes six IFEX members: ARTICLE 19, CPJ, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

Read an issue of Tissa's column in "The Sunday Times" written just before his arrest:

Also visit these links:
- International Mission statement:
- CPJ report on Sri Lankan government complicity in the country's deteriorating media environment, "Failure to investigate":
- Human Rights Watch:
- IFEX Sri Lanka page:
(11 March 2009)

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