Rights groups welcome pardon for Sri Lanka editor

May 4, 2010 (AFP) – Media rights groups Tuesday welcomed Sri Lanka’s decision to pardon a Tamil editor sentenced to 20 years in prison, but urged the government to ensure he was allowed to return to work freely. Paris-based RSF — Reporters Without Borders — said J. S. Tissainayagam, who wrote about the plight of the minority Tamil ethnic group during the country’s 37-year civil war, should be free to practice his profession.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse granted a pardon to Tissainayagam on Monday. He was convicted in August and became the first journalist to be punished under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act introduced in 1978.

“Reporters Without Borders urges President Mahinda Rajapakse to ensure that Tissainayagam will now be able to lead a normal life and, in particular, that he will be able to move freely and resume working as a journalist,” RSF said.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Tissainayagam’s lawyers had no prior notice of the presidential pardon and were still trying to get details of the terms of his release.

“We remain concerned about our colleague’s safety while he lives in seclusion in Sri Lanka,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia