Tissa’s case is more than a set of ludicrous charges against an individual. The charges, the length of time he was held without any charge and the manner in which he was treated while imprisoned are all carefully engineered to generate fear and anxiety amongst independent journalists and media. In this, the Rajapakse regime has been tremendously successful. Most journalists today are fearful of even writing about Tissa’s case, much less writing publicly against his unjust predicament or agitating for his quick release.
This is an excerpt from an editorial I wrote on Groundviews to support the campaign by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to free Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam.
One charge against Tissa – that through his writing he tried to bring the Government into disrepute – has serious and chilling implications for bloggers. The mere fact that it is a charge is disturbing, because this author does not know of any law in Sri Lanka under which being critical of a government is a criminal offense.
The interpretation of bringing into disrepute a government can be anything really, and range from Lirneasia’s critique of recent moves to ban “pornographic” websites, to Indi’s pointed criticism of the regime’s approach to war.
As I note in my editorial,
… the incredible charges against Tissa call for defiance and outrage. Every blogger, every journalist, virtually everyone who has articulated an opinion in public through any media should take very careful note of the charges against Tissa. Their nature place us all at risk of arbitrary detention and criminal charges.
Bloggers, fearful of openly expressing an opinion about the case, or convinced that Tissa is guilty, miss the larger point that the charges against him can be brought against anyone this regime, and any in the future, find inconvenient and need to be silenced. That’s just bad news for bloggers and blogging.
We need to fight this.