WASHINGTON, August 31, 2009 (AFP) – The United States criticized Sri Lanka Monday for sentencing to 20 years in prison a Tamil reporter whose case has been highlighted by US President Barack Obama. “We were disappointed to learn of the verdict and the severity of the sentence,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said after a court handed down the sentence against J.S. Tissainayagam.
“We continue to be concerned about the state of media freedom in Sri Lanka. Journalists remain under threat and consequently continue to practice self-censorship,” he added.
“We will continue to follow Tissainayagam’s case closely as it proceeds through the appeals process,” Wood said in an email exchange with AFP.
“We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to do everything it can to ensure Tissainayagam’s health and safety in prison,” he added.
Tissainayagam, 45, who contributed to the local Sunday Times and ran a website, Outreachsl.com, that focused on the island’s minority Tamils, was found guilty on three counts under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
A court official said he was ordered to do 20 years of hard labor in jail.
He was found guilty on charges of receiving mone