Sri Lanka media watchdog says charges against journalist ‘absurd’

Aug 20, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement (FMM) said government charges against a journalist who has been detained for months were weak and an attempt to cow down the media by using anti-terrorist laws. It said in a statement that it had learnt that journalist J S Tissainayagam, who has been held in detention in the custody of the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) since March 7, 2008, has finally been indicted in the High Court.

It said the charges against Tissainayagam related to offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) through his writing for a magazine, of bringing the government into disrepute and aiding and abetting terrorist organisations by raising money for the journal.

“FMM is dismayed that, after five months of detention purportedly for the purposes of investigations by the TID, the Attorney General has only been able to frame charges against Mr. Tissainayagam on such manifestly insubstantial and absurd grounds as these,” it said.

“It appears that the authorities are desperately attempting to manufacture grounds on which to prolong the incarceration of Mr. Tissainayagam using legal provisions that can only be described as oppressive.”

The FMM said that a