Sri Lanka - where journalism can get you 20 years

Earlier today Amnesty supporters attended a vigil in London’s Parliament Square (where hundreds of Tamils were protesting earlier this year) to draw attention to the case of Tissa, a Tamil journalist who was jailed for twenty years in Sri Lanka on Monday.

Renowned journalist and human rights defender Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam (Tissa) was arrested in March 2008 after he went to the police to inquire about the detention of two other media workers. He was subsequently charged under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act for crimes related to publishing articles which were critical of the government.

Today the UN has called for an investigation into whether Sri Lankan government forces attacked unarmed Tamil civilians during the conflict, following the release of a video which apparently shows this taking place. The authenticity of the video cannot be verified but, notably, the group who have released it, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, are exiles.

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Since 2006 at least 14 media workers have been killed, more than 20 have fled the country in response to death threats, and hundreds more have been harassed and attacked by both sides of the conflict.

Attacks on journalists throughout the conflict which ended earlier this year made it very difficult for the rest of the world to get an accurate picture of what was going on. This made human rights abuses more likely. As hundreds of thousands of Tamils now live in ‘detention camps’, these difficulties persist.

Amnesty International considers Tissainayagam to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and his legitimate activities as a journalist. We are calling for Tissa’s immediate and unconditional release and for attacks on Sri Lankan media workers to stop.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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