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Tissa receives award while US State Department condems Sri Lanka for the sentence

September 1, 2009

Indian Express – Imprisoned Tamil journalist bags two int’l award

BBC – Award for jailed S Lankan editor

RSF – Tamil journalist gets “shameful” 20-year sentence on terrorism charges

Global Media Forum and Reporters Without Borders have chosen to announce today that Tissainayagam will be the first winner of the Peter Mackler Prize, a newly-created award for journalists who display great courage and professional integrity in countries where press freedom is not respected.

The prize will be awarded at a ceremony presided over by Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli at the National Press Club in Washington on 2 October. The award honours the memory of veteran Agence France-Presse reporter and editor Peter Mackler, who died last year.

World Today – Sri Lanka jails Tamil journalist for 20 years

Bloomberg – Sri Lankan Editor’s Trial Shows Media Under Threat, US Says

AFP – Sri Lanka condemned for jailing journalist

Washington Post – World Digest: Sri Lankan Journalist Tissainayagam Sentenced to Prison

AFP – US raps Sri Lanka over journalist’s jail sentence

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  1. September 7, 2009 2:06 pm

    ackground: Thissanayagam Case and Others

    The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (1977) recognizes freedom of speech, expression and publication as fundamental rights of all citizens of the country. This in turn gives the constitutional recognition and protection for media freedom in the country.

    However, like any other country in the world, Sri Lanka too imposes pro bono restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, speech and publications. This is simply because of the possibility that this freedom can be misused for many purposes, including damage to the nation’s solidarity. Therefore, freedom of media in Sri Lanka is subject to the legal restrictions imposed in the interests of racial and religious harmony, with regard to parliamentary privilege, contempt of court, defamation or inducement to an offence, and some others too considered necessary for the good of society.

    It should be noted that in the context armed hostilities, the belligerents could use the media as an effective weapon to carryout out psychological warfare and propaganda against each other. When it comes to unconventional warfare, such as terrorist warfare; psychological operations and propaganda operate in extremely subtle form that it becomes a laborious task to differentiate between true media work and mendacity of propaganda.

    Terrorists usually lure people who are already work in the media through money or other benefits or attractions, to make them to carry out propaganda work using the platform of the mass media. These media willing or unwilling agents of terrorism always appear to act as independent journalists and some even as the self-proclaimed crusaders of media freedom in order to prevent disclosure of their true motives.

    Due to these circumstances, Sri Lanka has categorized misuses of the freedoms of speech, expression and publication including media freedom by terrorists as offences under Prevention of Terrorism Act (1979). Therefore, any person who causes or intends to cause violence, or racial or religious disharmony or feeling of ill will or hostility between different communities by his/her words, spoken or by any other way of expression, is a terrorist.

    Propaganda elements of LTTE terrorists of Sri Lanka use a threefold strategy to carry out their operations. They promote communalism among the Tamil Diaspora around the world, justify the LTTE’s terrorism and persuade Tamils to fund the terror outfit. On the other hand, they spread fabricated stories on the human rights situation in the country and attempt to bring international pressure against the government fighting against terrorism. They adapt a defensive strategy to avoid them being cracked down by the law by acting as some kind of crusaders of media freedom in the country.

    These self-proclaimed media freedom fighters often file reports full of invective, quoting various incidents of what they call “attacks on independent media workers”. These reports invariably contain false facts related to the quoted incidents or expose only the half-truths to support the hidden agenda of their originators. This report filed by defence.lk exposes the true facts of a few such incidents, often quoted as the gravest attacks on media freedom in Sri Lanka by bogus media rights groups.
    Jayeprakash Tissanayagam
    Personal Profile in brief

    Mr. Jayeprakash Tissanayagam was born in 1964 at Inuvil in Jaffna . He was an old boy of St. Thomas College , Mount Lavinia and graduated in political science at University of Peradeniya . He had started his career as a journalist at the Sunday Times in 1987, but later shifted to the NGO sector. According to Mr. Tissanayagam’s career history shown below, he can be recognized more as a career NGO worker than a journalist.
    Origin

    Mr. Tissanayagam is the only recognized journalist who has been taken into custody on suspicion of having connections with terrorist activities, by the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) of the Police. 06 March 2008, the TID raided two neighbouring offices at a Shopping complex of Kotahena, down Jampettah Street on reliable information that the LTTE had been running a press and a web-based propaganda institute there. During the raid it was found that a press owned by one Mr. Jaseekaran had been running under the name E-kuality Graphics Private Ltd , at the No 12 , Jampettah Street , Colombo 13. The next-door office at the No 12, was that of Outreach Multimedia Private Ltd.

    TID initially took Mr. Jaseekaran and Miss Valarmadhi into custody. Later, on the information revealed during the investigations, Mr. Tissanayagam was taken in to custody on 07 March 2008.
    Alleged fabrication

    The arrest of Mr. Jayeprakash Tissanayagam and his accomplices was shown to the world as the government’s arbitrary arrest of a group of independent journalists. The suspect’s long-time hobnobbing with various foreign funded NGOs and his career as a journalist gave a snowballing effect to the story. Many international civil rights groups, foreign embassies, INGOs without making a slightest effort to verify the facts have started sending heaps of letters to the law enforcement authorities to release the suspects.
    Background

    According to the statement made by Mr. Tissanayagam, he had come into close terms with known LTTE propagandist Dharmaratne Sivaram alias Taraki while he had been working for the Sunday Leader in 1999. Together with Taraki, Mr. Tissanayagam had toured the Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Vavuniya areas where the LTTE was then very active. Taraki was the editor of “Tamilnet”, the LTTE’s official mouthpiece on the Internet, and known to be the mastermind behind the all-Goebbelsian propaganda of the outfit that spread out its tribal ideologies. As result of this connection with Taraki, Mr. Tissanayagam had quit the Sunday Leader and started a pro LTTE magazine named North Eastern Herald with Taraki in 2002.

    Mr. Tissanayagam further stated that he had joined North Eastern Herald because it drew lot of foreign funds and therefore he found it to be very profitable to work there. An office affiliated to the Switzerland Embassy named SIDA had been its main financer. The directors of the company formed to carryout the publication were, Dharmaratne Sivaram , Shivakumar, and Yuvialan Thangarajh (A lecturer at Eastern University ). The magazine had been published up to November 2005, until SIDA stopped funding to the company. The main objective of making money through foreign aid for which the company was started was no longer achievable. According to Mr. Tissanayagam, a person named Karuniyan Arulanandan had agreed to provide funds to keep the company alive but failed in his part.

    What was interesting about the above mentioned business venture was that it was carried out mainly to draw foreign funds and seemed to have no any intention of becoming a self-financing business. Its main business, the publication of the magazine too had no market penetration but was mainly published as an opinion maker in favour of the LTTE at international forums. Like many such organizations run by foreign funds, the business made easy money for the people involved and ceased to exist as the financer turned its back. This is the bitter truth of many bogus rights activists in this part of the world.

    In 2004, the main suspect of the case, Vetrivale Jaseekaran had come to meet Mr. Tissanayagam and proposed him to start another venture that can draw a good amount of foreign funds. According to Mr. Tissanayagam, he had come to know Mr. Jaseekaran via another journalist in 2000, during one of his tours to Batticaloa. Consequently, a company named Renaissance Publication and Guarantee Limited had come in to operation under the directorship of Jayeparkash Tissanayagam, Vetrivale Jaseekaran, Kathiravale Vignashwaran, Balasubramaniam Wasanthan alias Shivakumar, Rohitha Bhashana Abeywaradane, Sathasivan Baskaran, and Vadivelu Valarmadhi. The company had started its office at No 82, Bandaranayake Mawatha, and Colombo 12 and started publishing a pro-LTTE magazine- North Eastern Monthly since February 2004.

    The North Eastern Monthly had been published under the direct guidance of LTTE and its content therefore had been aimed at subtly promoting tribal and sectarian ideologies championed by the LTTE. It has been found that LTTE had directly funded the organization through its agents in Colombo.

    In early 2006, Mr. Tissanayagam together with Mr. Jaseekaran had started another company named Outreach Multimedia Private Ltd. According to the evidence revealed so far, this new company had been started at the behest of the LTTE with the aim of carrying out internet-based propaganda for the terrorist outfit. The company directors were Mr. Tissanayagam, Mr. Jaseekaran and another individual named Terald Abeygunawardane. The last individual, Mr. Terald Abeygunawardane is currently in hiding to avoid police arrest.

    After starting the new company, Mr. Tissanayagam and the team had made a proposal to another INGO named FLICT with the aim of finding much desired foreign funding. As per the evidence, the company had made a written proposal to the INGO requesting 2.3 million rupees in 2006 in order to start a fully equipped web- based media organization. However, for some unknown reason the INGO had not considered the proposal serious enough, and had not been very quick to release the funds. As a result the disheartened entrepreneurs had lost their interest on the new project but continued their activities in the Renaissance Publication and Guarantee Ltd.

    In mid 2005, Mr. Tissanayagam had come into close contact with a hardcore LTTE cadre called Baba. On the instruction of Baba, Mr. Tissanayagam had met LTTE heads in Kilinochchi at least twice in 2005 and 2006. The North East Monthly had been published every month during 2005-2006 periods adhering to the guidance provided by the LTTE.

    As the evidence had started to pile up, Mr. Tissanayagam admitted that Baba had given him money for publishing the magazine. However, Mr. Tissanayagam had testified that he had refused the money offers made by Baba saying that someday the police may track him down. The TID had found that Baba had deposited 50,000 rupees at least on 3 occasions at an account that belonged the Renaissance Publication, at the Hatton National, Bank, Kotahena. Finally in early 2007, Mr. Tissanayagam seemed to have got cold feet of drawing direct funds from a terror outfit and stopped publishing the propaganda magazine in June 2007, as the company could not find any other source of funding.

    Thereafter, Mr. Tissanayagam had joined another INGO named ITI (One Text Initiative), established for “peace building” in this country in 2007. During this time he had also worked as a freelance journalist for The Sunday Times.

    However, responding to the early request made by the Outreach Multi Media, the INGO, FLICT had suddenly decided to provide 950,000 rupees to Mr. Tissanayagam and the team in early 2008. With this sudden fortune, the team of directors had reorganized themselves and re- launched the website http://www.outreach.sl.

    It can be reasonably suspected with the available evidence that Mr. Tissanayagam had obtained money from LTTE knowingly that it is a terrorist organization. Also, it is worthwhile to note that Mr. Tissanayagam had received the payments of which the TID has substantial proof, during a time when the LTTE was carrying out many civilian massacres, bus bombings, train bombings etc. If Mr. Tissanayagam was a responsible citizen, he could have come to the police and revealed the information he knew about the terror agents in Colombo .

    However, the possibility cannot be ruled out that Mr. Tissanayagam was actually another individual like those free media fighters who had been lured by the terrorist outfit exploiting his greed for money. This possibility comes to the surface when looking at the profile of Mr. Jaseekaran , the main suspect of the case.

    Mr. Tissanayagam has been indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the case is being heard at the courts.
    Vetrivail Jaseekaran alias Jasee
    Personal Profile in brief

    Mr. Vetrivale Jaseekaran was born in 1973 in Kallar, Batticaloa. He was a son of a government village officer and had education up to GCE ordinary level at Kallaru Government School. Also, he had followed a course on basic computer operation at a private institution in Kalmunai in 1993. He had started his career as a typesetter at a pro LTTE newspaper called “Saranihal” in 1993 and later worked as a local reporter to few LTTE newspapers and websites including Tamil Net.
    Alleged Fabrication

    The arrest and detention of Mr. Jaseekaran was shown to the world as a gross violation of media freedom. The perpetrators behind these false allegations introduced the suspect as an independent Tamil journalist but refrained from revealing his involvement with the terrorist propaganda work.
    Background

    During inquires Mr. Jaseekaran ( Mr. J)had revealed the true nature of the kind of “media work” that he had been involved in.

    In 1993, he had come to Colombo to work as a typesetter at the LTTE funded newspaper “Saranihal”. This newspaper was run by one of the key agents in the LTTE propaganda machinery, Subramaniyan Wasanthan alias Shivakumar. In 1994, Mr. J had returned to Batticaloa to work as a local reporter for LTTE publications. He had been employed in this task till 2000 by the LTTE.

    Also, the suspect has confessed that he had been an LTTE intelligence agent in Batticaloa since the mid 90s. He had provided intelligence on security forces movements, deployments, political developments, etc in the east to LTTE intelligence wing leader Atpudan Master. He had been used to convey this information through telephone and through LTTE informants and also by meeting Atpudan Master himself, at Kokkadicholai LTTE camp. He has admitted that the LTTE had bombed an Army bus killing two soldiers and 4 civilians in 1996 in Sathurukoondan on information given by him.

    Contrary to Mr. Tissanayagam’s claim that he had got to know LTTE agent Taraki after 1999, Mr. J stated that he had met Taraki along with Tissanayagam in Batticaloa in 1996. They had instructed the suspect on filing reports to media justifying crimes committed by LTTE terrorists including village massacres, bus bombings etc. Other than “Saranihal”, the suspect has worked as a reporter for the Tamilnet website and the Vidvanam and the Thinakadir newspapers. Also, he had conducted psychological operations for the LTTE from 1998 to 2000 through a street drama group called Theatre Action Group.

    In 2000, the suspect had started a printing press under the name Thamilachchi Print and Publisher in Batticaloa. According to Mr. J, Atpudan Master had funded the business. Mr. J had operated the press for the LTTE until 2003 but fled to Colombo as the looming internal rift between Prabhakaran and then LTTE commander for the East Karuna Amman had adversely affected his work.

    In Colombo, the suspects had started another printing press for the LTTE under the name E-kuality graphics in 2002. The suspect told the police that LTTE agent Taraki had given money to buy the office space at no 315, Jampettah Street , Colombo 13 to start the business. Later, the suspect had obtained funds directly from the LTTE to run the business. Since March 2002, the suspect along with Shivakuamar had run the business for the LTTE under their names. The press had published an LTTE publication named “Swadesha Ilandu” targeting the Tamil Diaspora in France to provide them with misleading information about the country’s situation.

    The suspect in his confession also revealed that he had been acting as an informant to the LTTE. He had provided information on Colombo security arrangements and VIP movements to his handler Karan at Kilinochchi, several times a week via telephone. Police found several notebooks containing comprehensive details of senior military officers and their family members in the possession of the suspect. Also, it was found during the investigations that the suspect had harboured LTTE cadres sent for various terrorist activities in Colombo at the E-Kwalily Graphic office at No. 82, Bandaranayake Mawatha , Colombo 12.

    In his confession, the suspect revealed that he had been asked to start an English magazine by the LTTE to propagate the outfit’s view to the world. Consequently, the suspect had opened another company under the name Renaissance Publication Private Limited and started publishing Northeastern Monthly in February 2004.

    According to the suspect the financial management of the Renaissance Publication Private Limited was solely handled by Mr. Tissanayagam. The bank account of the company was kept at Hatton National Bank at Aluthkade (No: 0010361214). Also, he had revealed that Mr. Tisssanayagam had visited Kilinochchi several times and obtained necessary orders from the terrorist leaders there.

    In December 2005, Mr. J had received orders and funds as well from the LTTE to start the website for the outfit to carryout its propaganda campaign. In May 2006, Mr. J, Mr. Tissanayagam and Mr. Teral Abeygunawardane had opened another company named Outreach Multimedia Private Limited and started the website http://www.outreachsl.com.

    Mr. Jasi has been indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the case is being heard in the courts.
    Vadivalu Valarmadi
    Personal profile in brief

    Miss. Vadivalu Valarmadi was born in 1976 at Manipai, Jaffna. She had her education at Palali Government School and Atchchuveli Government School. She obtained her bachelors degree in fine arts at University of Jaffna and later obtained her Master’s Degree in India. Her father was also a public servant. At the time of the arrest she was an employee of MTV/Sirasa Media Company.
    Alleged Fabrication

    The arrest of the suspect was shown to the world as an arbitrary arrest of an independent media worker.
    Background

    Miss. Vadivelu Valarmadi was taken to custody along with Mr. Jasi, for her involvement in terrorist activities. She was one of the directors of the Renaissance Publication Private Limited; a company invested by a terrorist outfit. At the time of the arrest she had identified herself as the wife of Mr. Vetrivale Jaseekaran, however, it was later found that she was not married to the latter.

    Police investigations found several pictures of the suspect taken with armed LTTE cadres including former LTTE leader for the East, Karuna Amman in a laptop computer found with the suspect.

    Miss Vadivelu Valarmadi has been indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the case is being heard in the courts.

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