Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam has been granted bail, allowing him to leave the labor prison he has been sentenced to as soon as Tuesday.
Tissainayagam, recipient of the first Peter Mackler Award, was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor for "causing communal disharmony." He is among the first journalists in Sri Lanka to be tried under the country's terrorism laws.
Tissainayagam is a respected journalist and Tamil minority who has been accused of inciting disharmony and racial hatred through his writings, and also of raising money for the Tamil Tigers. He edited the Columbo-based North Eastern Monthly, and wrote for Columbo's Sunday Times, and in his articles accused the government of human rights violations against the ethnic Tamils during war.
The European Union, President Obama, and many human rights groups including Reporters Without Borders, The Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, and The Peter Mackler Award have condemned the Sri Lankan government's decision to jail Tissainayagam, calling it a violation of free speech.
Tissainayagam was arrested along with North Eastern Monthly's publisher S. Jaseeharan, who was acquitted in October.
The Times UK notes that the reversal comes weeks before Sri Lanka's election, where the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa needs minority votes to secure a win over General Sarath Fonseka.
Photo Credit: AFP