International PEN protests the detention of Tamil journalists V. Jasikaran and J. S. Tissainayagam, who have been held for six months under terrorist legislation, apparently for their critical writings. PEN is also seriously concerned about allegations that both men have been subjected to torture and ill treatment by the Sri Lankan authorities in Colombo. PEN seeks assurances of their well-being and guarantees that their basic rights are being respected, and demands that they are given full access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency. PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of both journalists, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, on March 6, 2008, V. Jasikaran, a Tamil journalist, 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 7, Tamil journalist for the Sunday Timesnewspaper and editor of Outreach Sri Lanka, Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam, was also arrested by the TID following a visit he made to the offices of the TID requesting information about the detention of his colleague. There were no detention orders for their arrests. Initial reports suggested that V. Jasikaran and J. S. Tissainayagam were accused of receiving money from the Tamil Tiger rebel group; however, it is widely believed that the two men are 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. Several other Tamil journalists have been arbitrarily detained since March 7, 2008, including three contributors to the Outreach Sri Lanka web site. They were released after being questioned. According to Amnesty International, “The Emergency Regulations, issued by the President, introduce broad-based and vaguely-defined ‘terrorism’ offenses, which have been used to silence critical journalists and generally suppress freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.” 

J.S. Tissainayagam was held under renewable 90-day detention orders for five months before being charged on August 25, 2008 as follows: 1) offenses under the Prevention of Terrorism Act: in respect to printing, publishing, and distribution of the magazineNorth Eastern Monthly, between June 1, 2006 to June 1, 2007; 2) offenses under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in respect to bringing the government into disrepute by the publication of articles in said magazine; and 3) the violation of Emergency Regulations by aiding and abetting terrorist organizations through the raising of money for said magazine. It is said that North Eastern Monthly was known to be a pro-Tamil English-language publication that closed down over a year ago. It was not considered to be pro-LTTE. His trial is due to start on September 18, 2008.

On March 19, 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. He is held with very limited access to his family, legal representation and to information on his case. J. S. Tissainayagam requires surgery for a detached retina and he has been denied full access to the medical care he needs. He is being held in very poor prison conditions, which together with high levels of stress and exposure to light could seriously damage his sight. 

V. Jasikaran has also reported being subjected to torture since his arrest. On June 23, V. Jasikaran stated in court that he had been assaulted by members of the TID and the police during his detention. Reports say that V. Jasikaran’s wife, who is also detained in the case apparently solely for her association with V. Jasikaran, had undergone an operation shortly before her detention, and has been denied access to medical care.

It is not yet clear if V. Jasikaran and his wife have also been charged.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concern about the 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 United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights;
  • Urging the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that J. S. Tissainayagam and V. Jasikaran are not tortured or ill-treated, and that are allowed unrestricted access to their families, defense and the special medical care they require while in detention;
  • Expressing concern about an apparent pattern of repression against journalists and human rights activists in Sri Lanka. 

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency the President MahindaRajapaksa
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
Ambassador 
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
#630, 3rd Avenue (20th Floor)
New York 10017 
United States America 
mail@slmission.com 
Fax +1 (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 October 9, 2008: ftw [at] pen.org