March 12, 2009

His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2446657

Hon. Amarasiri Dodangoda
Minister of Justice and Law Reforms
Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms
Superior Courts Complex,
Colombo 12
Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2445447

H. M. G. S. Palihakkara
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the UN
630 Third Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 986-1838

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the continued detention of Tamil journalists V. Jasikaran and J. S. Tissainayagam.

According to our information, V. Jasikaran, owner of the E-Kwality printing works and reporter for the news web site Outreach Sri Lanka, was arrested by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in Colombo on March 6, 2008. On the following day, J. S. Tissainayagam, journalist for the Sunday Times newspaper and editor of Outreach Sri Lanka, was also arrested after questioning the TID regarding the whereabouts of his colleague. There were no detention orders for their arrests. It is widely believed that the two men are being targeted for their reporting and analysis on the ongoing conflict between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) in the northern part of the country.

On March 19, 2008, J. S. Tissainayagam filed a complaint before the Supreme Court, claiming that since his arrest he had been tortured, suffered discrimination because of his ethnicity and denied equal protection under the law. On June 23, V. Jasikaran stated in court that he had been assaulted by members of the TID and the police during his detention. Both men were charged on August 25, 2008, under the Prevention of Terrorists Act, for (a) conspiracy to cause the commission of acts of violence through inciting communal disharmony, (b) inciting racial or communal disharmony, and (c) furthering terrorist activities by contributing or obtaining information for the North Eastern Monthly magazine.

Both men have been held with limited access to their families or legal representation. According to reports, J. S. Tissainayagam contracted both tuberculosis and acute infected scabies while in detention and has been denied access to adequate medical treatment. On November 17, 2008, he was suddenly moved from a remand prison to the notorious Magazine Prison in Colombo, which is known for violence against Tamil prisoners.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned for the well being of J. S. Tissainayagam and V. Jasikaran, and urges the authorities to allow both men access to their families, legal representatives, and the adequate medical treatment they require. We believe both are being held solely due to their legitimate journalistic activities, and  therefore renew our call for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee Director

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

H. E. Jaliya Wickramasuriya
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the U.S.
2148 Wyoming Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: (202)-232-7181

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