International PEN is seriously concerned by the continued detention of Tamil journalists V. Jasikaran and J. S. Tissainayagam, who have been held since March 2008. PEN is deeply worried about reports of J. S. Tissainayagam’s ill-health, as well as restricted family visits and legal advice. PEN seeks assurances of both journalists’ well-being, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sri Lanka is a state party.

Background Information

V. Jasikaran, owner of the E-Kwality printing works and reporter for the news web site Outreach Sri Lanka, was arrested with his wife V. Valamathy by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in Colombo on March 6, 2008. J. S. Tissainayagam, Tamil journalist for the Sunday Times newspaper and editor of Outreach Sri Lanka, was arrested by the TID on the following day. Initial reports suggested that they were accused of receiving money from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). However, it is widely believed that the two men have been targeted for their reporting and analysis on the ongoing conflict between government forces and the LTTE in the northern part of the country. There are allegations that both men have been subjected to torture and ill treatment by the Sri Lankan authorities in Colombo.

According to recent reports, J. S. Tissainayagam has contracted both tuberculosis and acute infected scabies while in detention and has been denied access to adequate medical treatment. He is currently being held at Magazine Prison in Colombo, where there are fears for his safety. 

Recently, six organizations have published a joint action, "International Press Freedom mission to Sri Lanka," calling for J. S. Tissainayagam’s release, stating that:

The charges against Tissainayagam refer to two articles he wrote in 2006 for the North-Eastern Monthly, in which he criticizes the Government's military campaign and its impact on civilians. Tissainayagam is the first Sri Lankan journalist formally charged under the PTA and one of less than a handful of journalists facing counter-terrorism charges in any country with a democratically elected government.

On 17 November 2008, Tissainayagam was suddenly moved from a remand prison to the notorious Magazine Prison in Colombo, which is known for violence against Tamil prisoners. Reports at the time said he showed signs of being physically tortured.

The full statement was issued by Amnesty International, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), FreeVoice, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Media Support (IMS), International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concern about the continued detention of J. S. Tissainayagam and V. Jasikaran, who appear to be held solely for their legitimate journalistic activities, and calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights;
  • Urging the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that J. S. Tissainayagam and V. Jasikaran are allowed unrestricted access to their families, defense and the specialist medical care they require while in detention.

Send Your Letter To

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 United Nations
630 Third Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10017  
Fax: (212) 986-1838

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Sri Lanka in your country if possible.

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after April 11, 2009: ftw [at]