A Sri Lankan reporter singled out by President Barack Obama as an example of persecuted journalists around the globe was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison on charges of violating the country’s harsh anti-terror law.
J.S. Tissainayagam’s articles in the now-defunct Northeastern Monthly magazine in 2006 and 2007 criticized the conduct of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels and accused authorities of withholding food and other essential items from Tamil-majority areas as a tool of war.
Tissainayagam’s conviction, 17 months after the ethnic Tamil reporter was arrested, was the first time a journalist was found guilty of violating the country’s Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Rights groups have accused the government of waging a broad crackdown on media freedom that has continued since it routed the rebels and ended the nation’s quarter-century civil war in May…
On Monday, High Court Judge Deepali Wijesundara said Tissainayagam’s articles violated the law because they were aimed at creating communal disharmony. She also found him guilty of raising money for a publication whose articles violated the anti-terror law and sentenced him to 20 years.
Liz Cox Barrett is a freelance writer and graphic designer in Kalispell, Montana. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Denver and Kalispell for 20 years.