World media groups want
justice for Tissa
Senior journalist and Sunday Times columnist J.S. Tissanayagam is still being held by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) along with a printing press owner, two photographers and four others, detectives said yesterday — despite widespread condemnation of the arrests by international media groups.
The Sunday Times learns that Mr. Tissanayagam has been denied legal assistance and is being held in solitary confinement at the TID. Besides being a columnist of The Sunday Times, he has been running a news website known as Outreachsl.com.
The TID has so far not explained the reasons for the arrests, but two more persons related to the printing press owner were taken into custody this week.
The TID earlier took into custody the E-Kwality Printing press owner B. Jaseekaran, his wife, video photographer K. Wijesinghe and photographer Gayan Lasantha Ranga.
Meanwhile two international organizations watching the interests of journalists -- the Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists have expressed concern about the arrests and the failure to explain reasons for the detention of Mr. Tissanayagam and others.
The Reporters Without Borders said it was concerned about the fate of the journalists arrested and urged the authorities to explain why they were being held.
"The anti-terrorist police are accusing the journalists of receiving money from the Tamil Tiger rebels, but after investigations, we can confirm that the funds in question came from a German foundation and from Tamil exiles," the media freedom group said.
The funds received by two of the journalists, Mr. Jasikaran and Mr. Tissanayagam, were to finance the Outreach website and to help Tamil students. An official with the German foundation FLICT told Reporters Without Borders that Mr. Tissanayagam, Outreach's editor, received 12,000 euros in November as part of this initiative, the RSF said.
Mr. Jasikaran, the owner of the E-Kwality printing works and a writer known for his Tamil nationalist stance, was arrested in Colombo on March 6. His computer and printing equipment were seized, and his wife, a TV producer, was also detained.
TID also detained Journalist S. Sivakumar who was the editor of the Sarinihar Tamil weekly and the Tamil spokesman of the Free Media Movement last Saturday, but he was released later in the night.
Meanwhile the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Government to uphold the legal rights of those arrested by the TID.
The IFJ agrees with the FMM (Free Media Movement) in accepting that law enforcement agencies have a right to investigate leads in the public interest and take appropriate action as stipulated by the law. However, the IFJ urges that due process must be followed regarding the arrested journalists.
“Journalists, like all citizens, have the right to legal advice while in police custody. Their right to inform family and colleagues as to their location while being questioned must be observed, as must the presumption of innocence,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
The IFJ called on the Government to comply with international human rights and legal instruments to ensure the protection of the rights of journalists and other citizens within the legal system.