By Sumaiya Rizwi
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to pardon journalist J.S. Tissainayagam who is out on bail after being convicted on 31 August 2009 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, External Affairs Minister G.L Peiris told reporters a short while ago. He was given pardon on World Press Freedom Day which falls today.
“The President has taken this decision in view of World Press Freedom Day,” Prof. Peiris said and added that the decision to pardon Mr. Tissanayagam coincided with the discussion on the need to amend the emergency regulations.
Tissainayagam was convicted on three counts including editing, printing and distributing the publication North Eastern Monthly magazine during the period between June 1, 2006 and June 1, 2007. He was arrested in March 2008 and released on bail in January this year.
He stands charged on the count of inciting communal disharmony which was an offence punishable under Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was also convicted for collecting money to run the magazine and thereby furtherance of terrorism, an offence punishable under Emergency Regulations.
Tissainayagam was arrested in March 2008 when he visited the Terrorist Investigation Department in search of his colleague and publisher V. Jasikaran. He was held without charge for almost six months and then on August 25, he was charged with writing to incite ethnic disharmony.
The trial lasted one and a half years and Mr. Tissainayagam was convicted for 20 years hard labour on August 31. The case attracted attention within and outside the island nation. U.S. President Barrack Obama had said that he was concerned about threats against the media the world over, and mentioned the plight of Sri Lankan journalist J. S. Tissainayagam who has been detained for over a year. (Daily Mirror online)