Terrorist Investigation Division forces arrested Vettivel Jasikaran, manager of the news Web site OutreachSL, and his companion, Vadivel Valamathy, both ethnic Tamils, on March 6, 2008, according to local and international news reports and press freedom groups. Their colleague, Tamil columnist and OutreachSL editor J.S. Tissainayagam, was detained when he visited them the next day.
"J.S.Tissainayagam is being targeted for his journalism, and
his colleagues have been swept up alongside him in the government's transparent
effort to label their critics as terrorists," said
Tissainayagam, a well-known journalist who frequently
addressed displacement of civilians and other humanitarian issues stemming from
"The prosecution's case against Tissainayagam has been
deeply flawed from the outset and has made a mockery of the rule of law in
Sumanthiran told CPJ in an interview in November 2008 that his client's detention raised several procedural questions. Tissainayagam was arrested under emergency regulations and should have been charged within 90 days of his arrest. Tissainayagam's defense team also challenged both the content and the legality of an alleged confession which the journalist says he made under threat of torture. In December, the High Court ruled to allow that confession, according to news reports. Bail requests have been denied and his trial is ongoing.
Local news reports said Valamathy held an administrative post with the independent Sri Lankan TV network MTV. Her only connection to the case appeared to be her relationship with Jasikaran. The couple is awaiting trial.
Tissainayagam's supporters have frequently raised concerns about his health and the mistreatment of all three of the accused in prison. CPJ joined with international media rights groups today to call for Tissainayagam's release.
CPJ highlighted Sri Lankan government complicity in the country's deteriorating media environment in recent special report, "Failure to investigate."