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* Media watchdogs praise Sri Lanka President's decision to pardon Tamil journalist
Tue, May 4, 2010, 12:54 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

May 04, Colombo: International media watchdogs have praised Sri Lanka President's decision to grant a presidential pardon to the Tamil journalist J. S. Tissainayagam who has been convicted and released on bail, on Monday, the World Press Freedom Day.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said it welcomes the presidential pardon for Tissainayagam and urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure that he will now be able to lead a normal life and, in particular, that he will be able to move freely and resume working as a journalist.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday it was 'heartened' by the news of the pardon but waiting for official clarification concerning several important details.

CPJ's Asia program coordinator Bob Dietz said the right group is waiting for a detailed explanation of the terms of the government's announcement and remains concerned about his safety while he lives in seclusion in the country.

"While this is potentially very good news, our enthusiasm is muted until the details are made clear," Dietz said.

CPJ said, since Tissainayagam's attorneys were not informed of the President's decision before the announcement by the External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, they are concerned whether the pardon will allow Tissainayagam freedom to travel within and outside of the country and whether the government will return his passport.

Tissainayagam was arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Division of police in March 2008 and had been detained under the PTA until his release on bail in January this year.

Colombo High Court in August 2009 found Tissainayagam guilty on three charges of conspiracy and violating the Prevention of Terrorism Act and emergency regulations and handed over the minimum prison term applicable under the law.

He was sentenced to 20 years Rigorous Imprisonment under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations.

Media freedom organizations rallied on behalf of Tissainayagam accusing the Sri Lankan government of clamping on media freedom. The CPJ had urged President Rajapaksa to grant a pardon and annul his prison sentence.

Tissainayagam while in prison received the CPJ's International Press Freedom Award and Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism in 2009.

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