Vigil for imprisoned journalist in Sri Lanka


Vigil for Tissa in London ©Amnesty International

On Friday 6 March, the Sri Lankan Team at the International Secretariat organised a vigil outside the Sri Lankan High Commission in London to mark one year in detention for Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam, known as Tissa to his friends and family.

Tissa has been named a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International who believes that he has been imprisoned for simply carrying out his journalist activities.  Tissa has become an emblematic case for what has become the fate of many journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka held under sweeping terrorist legislation.

Without independent media coverage in Sri Lanka the international community are not able to get a true picture of what is happening to civilians caught up in the civil war.  150000 civilians are presently displaced by the war, and are living without adequate food, sanitation or shelter.


Vigil for Tissa in London ©Amnesty International

The Vigil began with a poem written after Tissa incarceration by Tissa’s teacher, Jean Arasanayagam:

I speak for all humanity
Who will speak for me?

There’s a resounding silence
When there should be speech

Stones fill the mouth
Weigh down the tongue

Stones of oppression
Stones of fear and terror

A blow from an iron fist
Split the sealed lips
Revealing a grimace of pain

You spit out words
Like broken teeth from your confessional

Words compelled by torture
Wrapped in a glittering foil of blood


Travelling to the vigil for Tissa in London ©Amnesty International

Each word sent a tingle down my spine and, to those attending, was a reality check of the challenges journalists and media workers are faced with for simply trying to tell the truth.

The vigil’s message was for Tissa’s immediate and unconditional release and this message got widespread press coverage.

Read more about Tissa’s case

Posted in Sri Lanka | 19 Comments

  1. samuel welsh says:

    I will pray that you get free media.

  2. elvi54 says:

    Cuesta esfuerzo por el cansancio mental que ocasionan estas noticias, pero es necesario protestar sin pausa por estos hechos. No cejar en ese empeño. Gracias a los periodistas que se buscan tantas complicaciones hay algo menos de abuso en el mundo.

  3. Dear Amnesty Sri Lankan Team, We are so proud of the work you’re doing and we’re excited about reaching out to you, in hopes that we can brainstorm ways in which we can work together. Please send us mail if you’re interested.

  4. Mr.L.A.J says:

    Please release him immediately.

  5. Gamekolla says:

    Terrorists Must Be Arrested Whether he is a journalist or not. In the fight against terror they cant be spared just because they are journalists

  6. Indopithecus says:

    Tissanayagam should be freed if innocent, punished if he has been working for the LTTE. Let justice take its course.

  7. I should say he will be set free a spirit tells me so .

  8. Sue says:

    How can a man be called a terrorist when his case is simply prolonged to avoid going through a justice system. Most terrorists are tried immediately. He is not the only journalist that this has happened to in Sri Lanka. Remember if it can happen to others it can happen to us. Fight for what’s right.

  9. Ben Hecht says:

    It is not only a right to speak and write openly here in Denmark it is an obligation – said by Ouer Royal Majesty Margrethe Rex to Denmark

  10. No administration should misuse their authority to prevent the media from bringing out the true pictures. However, if the media (or a journalist) supports terror in any form, no special immunity should be provided.

    The most important action, that may bring out the truth, is an impartial, honest trial observed by neutral observers from some international authority or organization.

  11. Paul says:

    I think you are doying a great job: free press is foundamental for democracy.

  12. Mike Ken says:

    Sri lanka is the worst country in world when it comes to human rights abuses. I’ve read nd witnessed so many incidents that they are trying to wipe off he tamil in sri lanka in the name of terrosism. Sri Lankan government soon will face international court of justice for ethnic clean up. They imprison, and killed any journalists who report the tamil cilivian casulties. They use the word terrorist those who oppose the government.

  13. Dylan Saunders says:

    Mike – Sri Lanka is not the worst country in the world and please don’t blame the country (sri lanka). It seems you have no idea what we (citizens of sri lanka) have gone through for 30 years of terror (all forms – government and and all other non state groups who have taken up arms). Your comments run through racial lines which suggests you only know very little about actual human rights violations in sri lanka.

  14. lito says:

    Scores of journalists have been murdered without the perpetrators being punished 28 years after this :
    Virginia Leary: Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka – Report of International Commission of Jurists 1981:
    “The South African Terrorism Act has been called ‘a piece of legislation which must shock the conscience of a lawyer.’ Many of the provisions of the Sri Lankan Act are equally contrary to accepted principles of the Rule of Law. …. The application of the principle of self-determination in concrete cases is difficult. It seems, nevertheless, that a credible argument can be made that the Tamil community in Sri Lanka is entitled to self-determination. …. The fate of the Tamils in Sri Lanka remains a matter of international concern”.

  15. Pela liberdade,democracia,segurança no Sri Lanka e pela libertação do Jornalista Tissa(…)

  16. Pingback: La liberté bafouée – Des journalistes empêchés d’effectuer leur travail « Amnesty International Tunisie

  17. Vasanthakumar. says:

    Today the world is corrupted and people are loosing their faith on justice. Now it is seldom to find it.

  18. Lora Parker says:

    This makes it all the more unbelievable that the media isn’t covering the story of the Tamils living in internment camps in Sri Lanka. If journalist are denied access, they must report on that, and on what is being hidden. The NY Times hasn’t reported on the plight of the Tamil all this month. The situation is so alarming that daily updates are certainly warranted. If media access is being denied, all the more reason to shine the spotlight all the brighter, in the interest of all parties.

  19. arjun says:

    Wilston Churchil used his “feedom of expression” and said, “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes”. If you have an open mind, you would think twice befor calling him “Sir” wouldn’t you?. Sorry to deviate from the topic… Our freedom of expression MUST end where our way of “expressing” causes death and and destruction to innocent masses. Even worse if we do it for money by terrorists. After 30 + years of death and suffering sri lanka’s people are thirsty for justice and peace, to live all together as one race, forget the old wounds and progress together. Unfortunately Mr.Tissanayagam’s writings have been based on his paymasters (the LTTE)’s racist propaganda, the nazi like tamil-supremacy ideology which fortunately the 90 % of the innocent tamil population does not share. This in MHO is purely a crime. Let Sri Lanka’s justice system take due action whether he’s a journalist or a fish vendor. Sri Lanka’s people seem to have more faith in their own system than foreign ones. so why should we keep stirring even more hatred amongs communities there?

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