New York, January 11, 2010 — The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release on bail of Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam on Monday in Colombo, but calls on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to use his constitutional power to extend a full pardon and erase the 20 year sentence of “rigorous imprisonment” that was handed down in August.
On November 24, CPJ honored Tissainayagam with one of its annual International Press Freedom Awards, recognizing his courageous journalism in a country where the media is under siege.
"This is good news and long overdue,” said Gwen Ifill, a CPJ board member who recognized Tissainayagam at CPJ’s award ceremony in November. “We will continue to stand by him throughout his legal process.”
Tissainayagam was ordered released on 50,000 rupees (about $440) by Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal on Monday. The Tamil editor was jailed in March 2008, and was eventually indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in August 2008. When releasing him on bail on Monday, the court also ordered him to surrender his passport.
“This is a step forward in the exoneration of this brave journalist, whose case has caught the attention of the world,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “But President Rajapaksa has it within his constitutional power to fully exonerate him and return to Tissainayagam his full rights as a Sri Lankan citizen.”