EU joins criticism of jailing of Sri Lanka journalist

BRUSSELS, September 3, 2009 (AFP) – The European Union joined Thursday the international outcry over the sentencing to 20 years in jail of a journalist in Sri Lanka for his alleged links to Tamil Tiger rebels. The foreign ministry in Colombo has rejected international criticism of the verdict, which has also come from the United States and media rights groups, as an attempt at “undermining the independence of the judiciary of Sri Lanka.”

“The European Union is troubled by the severe sentence of 20 years hard labour in prison passed by the Colombo High Court on journalist Mr J.S. Tissainayagam,” the EU’s Swedish presidency said in a statement.

“The verdict and the disproportionate sentence against Mr Tissainayagam give rise to concern with respect to freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Sri Lanka,” it said.

“The EU is concerned by continuing serious shortcomings with regard to freedom of expression in Sri Lanka,” the presidency said, and expressed concern about the journalist’s health.

Tissainayagam, 45, who contributed to the local Sunday Times and ran a news website, was found guilty on Monday under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

He was convicted of receiving money from