J. S. Tissainayagam – Biography


Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam (known as J. S. Tissainayagam, Tamil: ஜெயப்பிரகாஷ் சிற்றம்பலம் திசைநாயகம்) is a Sri Lankan journalist. He was detained by the Terrorism Investigation Division of the Sri Lanka Police on 7 March 2008. He was held without charge for almost 6 months. He was indicted on politically motivated charges under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act for intending to incite communal hatred through writing, and furthering terrorist acts through the collection of money for his publication. On 31 August 2009 he was convicted of the charges by the Colombo High Court and sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment.

After an international outcry where US President Barack Obama called him one of the “emblematic examples” of journalist being harassed around the world Tissainayagam was pardoned by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 3 May 2010, World Press Freedom Day.


J. S. Tissainayagam has been a journalist for over 20 years. He worked for The Sunday Leader and the Sunday Times as well as many other newspapers before founding the North Eastern Herald. He was also a columnist for the Sunday Times.


Tissainayagam has been named the first winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. “We are happy to reward J.S. Tissainayagam in 2009, a terrible year for Sri Lanka,” said Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary-general of the Paris-based press rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “J.S. Tissainayagam is one of those and should never have been imprisoned,” he said. “Sri Lankans have the right to be informed about what is happening on their island.They have the right to read words written by men like J. S. Tissainayagam.”

Tissainayagam also won the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award in 2009, but could not go to receive it due to his imprisonment.

In 2010, he was named Foreign Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards. In 2011, he was honoured with an Oxfam Novib/PEN Award.

You can read J. S. Tissainayagam’s short story here