New York City, January 13, 2010—PEN American Center welcomes the release on bail of Tamil journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam (J. S.) Tissainayagam from Welikada Prison in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on January 11, 2010. Tissainayagam, who has been one of PEN American Center’s priority cases, is free pending his appeal of a 20-year prison sentence that PEN considered a violation of his right to freedom of expression. The Appeals Court has ordered him to pay 50,000 Rupees (approx US $500), and to surrender his passport. The appeals process could take up to two years unless expedited by the Attorney General.

A journalist for the Sunday Times newspaper and editor of the news web site Outreach Sri Lanka, J. S. Tissainayagam was arrested on March 7, 2008, by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in Colombo. More than a year later, on August 31, 2009, a High Court in Sri Lanka sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment with hard labor under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for “causing communal disharmony” in his articles published in 2006 by the magazine North-Eastern Monthly. He was also found guilty of raising funds to publish the magazine. His conviction was based on a confession that was allegedly obtained through torture in police custody.

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111