The Committee to Protect Journalists has announced that it will honour imprisoned Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam with a 2009 International Press Freedom Award.
Tissainayagam was yesterday sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of violating anti-terror laws. A Colombo High Court sentenced Tissainayagam to 20 years of hard labour in the first conviction of a journalist under the country's harsh anti-terror laws. Tissainayagam, known as Tissa, suffers from poor health and said his confession to the charge was extracted under threat of torture, according to his lawyers.
"We are announcing this award today to highlight the depth of outrage at this unjust sentence," said CPJ executive director Joel Simon. "Its harshness and the retroactive nature of the charges reflect vindictiveness and intolerance. We are calling today for Tissainayagam's release--an appeal we plan to repeat at our awards ceremony, when the world's leading journalists gather to demand press freedom for all of our colleagues."