Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release today of three journalists working for the website Outreachlk. They were held by anti-terrorist police for 12 days.
Journalist Kithsiri Wijesinghe, photographer Gayan Lasantha Ranga and cameraman Udayanan, were arrested by anti-terror police on 7 March, after coming under suspicion of receiving money from the Tamil Tigers. Some of them were beaten in the first days of their detention in an attempt to extract confessions. Reporters Without Borders has obtained evidence that the money in question came chiefly from a German foundation, without any link with the Tamil rebels of the LTTE.
Owner of the printers and Tamil writer, V. Jasikaran, as well as the director of the website and journalist on the Sunday Times, J. S. Tissanayagam, are still in police custody. The latter has appealed to the Supreme Court for his release and complained of “inhuman conditions” of detention.
12.03.2008 - Tamil journalists arrested and beaten by police acting on wrong information
Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the fate of five Tamil journalists arrested by anti-terrorist police in Colombo in the past six days and urges the Sri Lankan authorities to explain why they are being held.
“The anti-terrorist police are accusing the journalists of receiving money from the Tamil Tiger rebels, but after investigating, we can confirm that the funds in question came from a German foundation and from Tamil exiles,” the press freedom organisation said. “We condemn the fact the some of these journalists were badly beaten during their first few days in detention, and that this was clearly done to extract confessions from them.”
The funds received by two of the journalists, V. Jasikaran and J.S. Tissanayagam, were to finance the Outreachlk (www.outreachsl.com) website and to help Tamil students. An official with the German foundation FLICT told Reporters Without Borders that Tissanayagam, Outreachlk’s editor, received 12,000 euros in November as part of this initiative.
Several other sources told Reporters Without Borders that Jasikaran received money from members of the Tamil exile community in Germany to help students in the east of the island.
The owner of the E-Kwality printing works and a writer known for his Tamil nationalist stance, Jasikaran was arrested in Colombo on 6 March. His computer and printing equipment were seized, and his wife, a TV producer, was also detained.
Tissanayagam, who writes for the Sunday Times newspaper as well as editing Outreach, was arrested by anti-terrorist police on 7 March. Reporter Kithsiri Wijesinghe, photographer Gayan Lasantha Ranga and video director Udayanan were arrested later the same day.
Journalist S. Sivakumar, the spokesman of the Free Media Movement, was detained for a few hours on 8 March in connection with the same case. He has been ordered to present himself to the police again.